MP welcomes longer rail franchise to encourage investment
Neil Parish welcomes the Government's support for a 15-year rail franchise as it will enable the company to invest long-term. He calls for improvements to permit more freight by rail at Tiverton and a new station at Cullompton.
Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) on securing the debate. I will be brief because one more Back Bencher wants to speak. I also congratulate the Government on going for a 15-year franchise, but of course with that comes the responsibility to get it right, because it is a much longer-term contract. My hon. Friend made the point that it will also give the company the chance to put in the investment that will improve services.
May I make the point that the west country does not stop at Bristol? Although Bristol is very important, much of the west country is west of Bristol. My Cornish friends are very welcome here this morning; but of course, to get to Cornwall, one has to go through Devon. I therefore make a plea for us to build on the junction at Tiverton in my constituency. We want to increase the industrial parks around Tiverton, so there is a chance to move some industrial goods by rail at Tiverton. In the future, a new station at Cullompton would also be very much welcomed.
Ours is a very important part of the country. If we consider the issue from a tourism angle, we find that people come to London first, and then if they are asked where they want to go next, they say that they want to go to the west country, particularly Devon and Cornwall of course. They quite like Somerset and they occasionally go to Wiltshire and occasionally stop off in Bristol. To be serious, we do need that business. Plymouth airport is being closed. The airport at Exeter is building up, but it is not yet big. Bristol airport is doing quite well. However, many people still come in through Heathrow, so the contacts between areas and getting to and from Heathrow and the railway are also important issues.
All those matters need to be taken into consideration. As I said, the Government are right to go for a 15-year contract, but we need to consider the relevant issues very carefully when we award that contract.