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Need to keep on track in the longer term

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 20, 2014

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ROBBING "Peter Investment" to pay "Paul Repair" could slow down the Cornish railways' engine of recovery.

Of course, the pressures and hardships of the present moment must focus the attention of engineers, environmentalists and financiers. But, it is always important to keep one part (at least) of the mind focused on the longer term.

So, as we grapple with the need to find a durable and robust solution to the problems of the railway at Dawlish, it is also important to bear in mind that Cornwall has a great need for, and wishes to, develop the potential of its internal rail network.

As public resources shrink, so social need is growing. It is important to try to evolve a public transport network which serves the communities of Cornwall efficiently, promoting access to services, positive social interaction, a lively and meaningful cultural life and, hopefully, securing equality and wellbeing for all, or at least the vast majority.

Cornwall Council has been in the lead in rediscovering the railway. The redualling of the Probus to Burngullow mainline enabled a significant improvement in services, while the now celebrated passing place at Penryn has achieved the greatest growth in passenger numbers on any line in the UK.

These successes have enabled us to develop a strong relationship with Network Rail, to be influential in policy thinking in the Department for Transport, and to work well with franchisees, First Great Western and Cross Country.

The council is working towards re-signalling the mainline between Penzance and Plymouth to enable a half-hour shuttle to link with both branch lines and the bus network.

We are also working with Bodmin and Wenford Railway to introduce a scheduled service from Bodmin Parkway to Bodmin Central. These services will not impede the hourly London service or the cross-country trains.

With such a complex survival from the Beeching era, Cornwall is well set to find a long-term and sustainable way of developing a modern public transport system to underpin both our community life and the evolution of our complicated economy.

Dawlish must be sorted – and sorted properly. But the Government must understand that money provided to reconstruct Dawlish and elsewhere cannot be taken away from longer-term "domestic" development.

And we in Cornwall must not ignore our railway structures – all those tunnels and bridges. All this investment will be in a transport system which is popular with passengers, tried and tested, and has significant potential to develop.

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