Is the South West invisible?

After my General Studies exam where I had to write about the benefits of expanding the motorway network vs the benefits of expanding the railway network, it got me thinking (and a bit frustrated) yet again about the world seems to end in Bristol, and the Government – both red and blue –  constantly seems to forget the South West, including Exeter and Plymouth, and also Cornwall.

In 2010, the Transport Secretary announced plans for a high speed rail link between London and Birmingham and the North of England. It could be the fact I live in a part of the country with average but not brilliant transport links via train, but I was amazed by the fact I could get from Birmingham to London in two hours. People travelling from Birmingham, quite frankly, don’t know how good they have it. While I agree that a high speed rail would be beneficial, the effects would have to be weighed up first – not just economically, but environmentally and socially too. Sir John Johnson puts it perfectly – “Saving 20 minutes on the journey from London to Birmingham doesn’t seem worth it if it means damage to the countryside.”

How can we even think about strengthening already strong transport links between Birmingham and London when people in the South West – specifically Plymouth which is, I think you’ll find, going to be the “prime waterfront destination for culture” by 2020 – do not have strong transport links to begin with? Take CrossCountry trains as an example. They run a service from Plymouth to northern destinations – mainly Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, Leeds or Manchester Piccadilly – which should make perfect sense right? Efficient and easy, yes? No. It took me less time, about 90 minutes less in fact, and almost £50 less to travel to London on a FGW service and up to Newcastle on an East Coast than it did to get the direct service from Plymouth. In a society where we rely so heavily on technology, it seems like absolute madness.

The South West is improving all the time, we have an incredible tourist market down here and boast hundreds of tourist hotspots. We have so many beautiful villages, towns and cities just bursting with culture and vibrancy, yet its such a bugger to get to. Plymouth, last year alone, took over 60 million day visitors into the city. It is clearly not to people popping over from Saltash now, is it? The Westcountry contributes massively to the economy, its about time the government gave something back and invested in their transport systems.

After all, regardless of what anybody else says, South West most definitely is the best.

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