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Transport

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Derek Thomas Derek Thomas Conservative, St Ives 6:21 pm, 5th February 2020

I listened carefully to the shadow Secretary of State’s opening speech, and was curious about his comments regarding investment in buses. Across Cornwall, we have seen the roll-out of a brand new fleet of buses that are easy-access and have audio-visual information, as do many bus stops. In addition, we have had £23.5 million to pilot an even greater public transport system on our roads, with reduced ticket fares and the greatest investment in rail links since the time of Brunel and the introduction of the railway in Cornwall.

There is an appetite across Cornwall to decarbonise transport, and the work under way between Cornish MPs, the Government and Cornwall Council to deliver that is ambitious and welcome, and will continue. We will get more people out of their cars and on to public transport. However, I see no conflict between the road improvements and reducing our carbon footprint. In fact, reducing car congestion by improving roads contributes to cleaner air, and a reduction in harmful emissions must be an essential object of the Government’s infra- structure programme.

It will come as no surprise to Ministers that I wish to talk about the A30. The single-carriageway A30 between Cambourne and Penzance is the main route in and out of west Cornwall, and it no longer meets the demand, irrespective of the mode of transport or the fuel used to power vehicles—diesel, petrol or electric. Residents are rightly fed up with the congestion, regular accidents and incidents, and poor air quality. Will the Secretary of State and his team look again at the need to commit to a route appraisal for that section of road as part of RIS2?

Let me turn to the need to deliver a resilient, affordable and accessible transport link between the Isles of Scilly and Penzance. The current transport provision is the primary cause of concern for residents on Scilly, who rely on that link to provide the goods and food they need; the most affordable method of transport for passengers, including to and from medical appointments; and the main method of travel for tourism, which accounts for the lion’s share of the local economy. I refer the Secretary of State and his team to current dialogue between the local transport board and his Department regarding the provision of cash to work up a plan to deliver a resilient, affordable and accessible transport link between Scilly and Penzance.

Finally, as more and more people switch to electric cars, will the Minister meet me to consider the implications of that? A vibrant tourism sector such as mine in west Cornwall relies on good transport networks, and public transport is nowhere near to offering a viable alternative for most tourists. Lots of people arrive for their holidays at roughly the same time and on the same days. The implication is that lots of electric vehicles will need to be charged. How we provide the charging capacity for hotels, resorts and camping and caravan sites has not been properly considered, but the challenge is fast approaching.

In summary, consideration of the A30 in RIS2 will be welcome; support to deliver a resilient and affordable transport link to Scilly is vital; and consideration must be given to radically increasing charging capacity and infrastructure, to ensure that Cornwall remains a location of choice to decarbonise, detox and unwind for hard-working families.