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‘Plymouth needs transport links that won’t hold back its ambition’

April 2, 20240

It is a well-known fact that Plymouth has been held back for decades by suboptimal rail links, MP Johnny Mercer writes. The South West was cut adrift by the Beeching cuts of 1963, a poorly delivered set of reforms which is only now beginning to be corrected. It is a reality which I experience travelling to and from London every week.


Last November, writing on the Government’s £36bn Network North announcement, I was delighted to share a huge package of transport investment for the South West. It includes, among other things, plans for a new rail link from Plymouth to Tavistock. However, the greatest rail project undertaken in our region during my time in Parliament has been the £165m transformation of the Dawlish seafront.


Many will remember the devastating storm which severed the vital Dawlish to Teignmouth rail link for eight weeks a decade ago. It is a vital artery, connecting 50 towns and cities in the South West with the rest of the UK.


Equally, the line is a fantastic advertisement for our region with its scenic views of the Devon coastline. However, the closure of the line was estimated to have cost Plymouth’s economy over £600,000 every day; that is a loss in revenue of £33.6 million in our City alone.


In response, the Government has delivered the South West Rail Resilience Programme. This includes a new 800-metre sea wall and a high-level promenade has been constructed at Dawlish. The curved-edge design deflects the waves back out to sea. A new footbridge with lifts has made the Dawlish Station fully accessible for the first time. A 109-metre rockfall shelter near Holcombe and 19,700 square meters of netting secured by 6,000 soil nails has been designed to help stabilise and stop material falling from the cliffs.


The next phase of work will take place along the 1.8 miles of railway from Parson’s Tunnel to Teignmouth. This huge public sector capital investment from the Department for Transport will create a more resilient railway, giving passengers to and from Plymouth safer and more punctual journeys.


At the freeport, marine park, dockyard and beyond, Plymouth has seen record levels of investment in the past twelve months. However, to fully harness the economic growth ambitions we have for our city, we need a transport system that is up to the task. This is a point that I have consistently made throughout my time in Parliament. I will continue to be a vocal advocate for better transport links in our region and support any capital projects like Dawlish which will help meet this challenge.


As ever, please get in touch via or 01752 876979. Surgeries can also be booked with me through these channels. 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.

Luke Jones

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