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Major transport investment in south west on the way

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020 1:44pm

By Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter and Radio Exe News

Although Devon County Council plans day-to-day cut in spending

The government's promised spending on infrastructure in the south west has been welcomed by Peninsula Transport, a group put together by local authorities to address transport issues.

The National Infrastructure Strategy has committed to:

  • A new railway station at Edginswell in Torquay, thanks to £7.8 Almillion funding confirmed in the spending review.
  • “Restoring rail links to Okehampton in Devon”, via a £500 million fund to restore transport services lost in the 1960s.
  • Development funding to progress seven other rail schemes in the South West, including opening the station in Cullompton.
  • £59 million for Plymouth, including £12million to improve walking and cycling, via the Transforming Cities Fund.
  • Work and plans are progressing on several other schemes not mentioned by name, including the upgrade of the rail line at Dawlish.
  • Nine South West towns will receive up to £25 million each via the Towns Fund to support major regeneration plans, including Torquay.
  • Seven South West projects have been awarded a total of £526 million via the Housing Infrastructure Fund to unlock thousands of new homes, including £55.1million for South West Exeter.

“The projects in this strategy, including £27 billion of public funding next year, will create wealth and thousands of jobs to repair some of the scars from the pandemic,” said prime minister Boris Johnson, who drew attention to the dualling of the A303 in his foreword.

The strategy reaffirms that “the government will invest in the south west to help rebalance the UK economy”.

Chairman of the Peninsula Transport Shadow Sub National Transport Body, Cllr Geoff Brown, said: “We warmly welcome the government’s commitment through the National Infrastructure Strategy (NIS). Investment is critical to the South West economy whether it is on rail, roads, ports, airports, broadband upgrades or charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

“We are also greatly encouraged by the commitment of the government to Sub National Transport Bodies (STBs) and the £425,000 of funding agreed with Department for Transport for our strategic transport work this year.  However as always we await the detail on some of the wider spending announcements just to see how much benefit they will provide for the Peninsula.”

Highlights which may support the Peninsula from the government’s spending review include:

A package of Covid-19 support to keep critical transport links available, including an agreement that the Treasury will absorb risks associated with rail passenger revenue.

  • £4 billion Levelling Up Fund, including up to £600m in 2021/22, with the additional funding spread over the remaining years to 2023/24 with details on bidding due in the New Year.
  • £27.5 billion for England’s Strategic Roads.
  • £1.7 billion for potholes and local road upgrades including £310 million for the major road network and large local major schemes programmes.
  • £420 million bus funding (£120m for zero emission buses and £300 million for recovery & transformation).
  • £257 million cycling and walking funding.
  • Continuation of the Plug-in Car, Van, Taxi and Motorcycle Grants until 2022-23.
  • £20 million in 2021-22 to enable a UK network of technology demonstrations in alternative marine fuels and green shipbuilding.
  • £21 million for the decarbonisation of aviation.

Cllr Brown added: “It is so important for our rural communities that their transport needs are considered and we will be making strong representation on this. We also welcome the news on £60 million funding for the North Devon Link Road.”

Reacting to the news, Torbay MP Kevin Foster said: “The £21.9 million Torquay Town Deal and the £7.8 million of New Stations Funding for Edginswell will help create the infrastructure and opportunities our bay needs to build back better from the impact of Covid-19 on our economy and community.

“This, combined with investment in our region’s infrastructure such as strengthening the sea wall at Dawlish and approving work to finally solve the problems on the A303 at Stonehenge, are signs of this government’s commitment to our region after decades when the South West did not get its fair share of infrastructure spending.”

David Thomas, Conservative group leader on Torbay Council, said: “The Conservative group of councillors in Torbay are delighted to have received funding for the Torquay Town Deal (£21.9 million) and Edginswell rail station (£7.8 million). Although entirely different schemes, they clearly complement each other and are a real game-changer for the town. This government investment comes on the back of £120 million of private money coming into the bay, where we are seeing five new hotels being built.

Central Devon MP Mel Stride said:  “The service will be a huge boost to the local economy in and around Okehampton and will also have a positive impact on Crediton as more people travelling between Okehampton and Exeter stop off to shop. It will provide a valuable service for local residents, especially those without a car, and will also be good for the environment by taking cars off the road. I will be making urgent enquiries to see what final steps need to be taken for services to begin in 2021.”

On Wednesday, Devon County Council's leading Conservative group announced it intended to cut day-to-day spending on transport next year.

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