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Investment plea for Westcountry's rail and roads

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

Flooding at Cowley Bridge in Exeter last month which disrupted rail travel into Devon and Cornwall

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Westcountry MPs called for funding to safeguard transport links between the region and the rest of the country in the wake of disruption caused by flooding.

Gary Streeter, Tory MP for South West Devon, urged ministers to ensure future investment in flood defences protected vital routes, as well as homes and businesses.

And in the wake of a £5.5 billion capital funding programme announced in the Autumn Statement, which will see the dualling of the A30 in Cornwall, fellow Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport Oliver Colvile is pressing for upgrades to rail and road links, including the A38.

He is also calling for improvements to the A303, a major route into the region which suffers from severe bottlenecks.

So-called "connectivity" has long been seen as the biggest issue facing the South West.

The problem was underlined by the loss of Plymouth airport and last month's heavy rainfall which shut the rail mainline, and accidents on the M5 can lead to the road being closed for long periods.

During environment questions in the Commons, Mr Streeter raised the recent disruption caused to transport links with the Secretary of State.

The MP said to Environment Secretary Owen Paterson: "He will know that the recent floods disrupted the vital train link between the far South West and London. Will he ensure that any future investment in flood defences takes into account protecting vital transport infrastructure, not just homes and businesses?"

Mr Paterson, who visited Devon during the floods, said the Transport Secretary had been "on the case to ensure that the vital rail link was restored".

He added: "I totally endorse his (Mr Streeter's) point about transport links and flooding."

Later in the Commons, Mr Colvile also pressed the Government on the vulnerability of transport links.

He said: "Last week, Plymouth and Cornwall were cut off by rail due to flooding and landslips. I welcome the announcement by the Chancellor that he will spend £5 billion on investing in our infrastructure and that part of the A30 in Cornwall will be dualled.

"Please can we have a wider debate on infrastructure in the South West to discuss the railway line from Exeter to Plymouth, improvements to the A38 and the potential dualling of the A303?"

Suggesting Mr Colvile seek a backbench debate into infrastructure improvements, the Commons Leader Andrew Lansley, who lived in Devon for four years, said: "I remember how the A303 was back in those days. It is better now than it was then, but there are still a few bottlenecks."

Mr Colvile confirmed afterwards he had requested a debate.

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