We have been swamped with political commentary about the Prime Minister’s bold announcement to reverse HS2 and spend the £36bn on Network North at the start of the month. In this column I would like to clear the air by explaining the reasoning behind this change of policy and what it means for Plymouth – an aspect of the decision which I believe has been neglected.
It was no secret that HS2 was ballooning out of budget – rising to around £100bn – bringing the assumed benefits of the line into doubt. Instead, the Government have decided to spend the money earmarked for HS2 on a new project which will spread investment across the UK. This investment reaches as far as Plymouth, delivering substantial investment for our rail network, roads and bus services.
Despite being styled ‘Network North’, the fresh approach to levelling up our nation’s transport infrastructure offers significant improvements to the South West in a way that HS2 never could. The Government’s policy paper lays out plans to reopen the stations at Wellington and Cullompton and create a rail link from Plymouth to a new station at Tavistock. Additionally, the Government will allocate funding to complete the much-needed South West Resilience Programme, improving the resilience of the key route between Plymouth and Exeter through Dawlish.
£610 million has been committed for 39 road schemes and an additional £2.8 billion to resurface roads in the East, South East and South West. Although the new transport plan is still in its formative stages, these spending pledges point to a more comprehensive approach to levelling up, bringing with it greater benefits to the South West. I am keeping a close eye on specific projects which emerge in Plymouth and our region.
We receive a lot of traffic on Plymouth City Council’s bus services in my constituency office in St Budeaux. I welcome the Government’s announcement that Network North will extend the £2 bus fare to the end of 2024. This follows a recent investment of £816,563 by the Government into our City’s bus network. I know that this will come as a relief to many constituents in Plymouth Moor View who rely on buses as their main mode of transport. The onus is now on the Council to spend this money wisely.
It is well known that the South West has been held back because of poor connectivity for too long, often missing out on investment as a result. I have done a lot in this space. I secured funding for the redesign and build of Plymouth train station as well as multi-million funding settlements for main road upgrades throughout the city. In my first op-ed for the Herald, I outlined my campaign to fix funding issues with the Tamar Bridge. The new transport plan will help close this gap further and attract sustained investment to our City. I will continue to speak up for Plymouth in Parliament and make sure that the Government’s promises to our region are delivered on.
As ever, do get in touch with anything Plymouth. If you would like to raise any issues about healthcare in our City, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org or 01752 876979. Furthermore, if you would like to be notified about what I am doing here in Plymouth, including when I next write an op-ed for the Herald, please sign up to my mailing list here.