THE time for talking and making promises is over. With the only rail link to Cornwall left in tatters after a winter of storms, there has to be urgent action to build an alternative line.
Today The Cornishman is calling on the Government to forget HS2 – the £30bn upgrade to the line between London and the Midlands – and use the cash to build an alternative route from Paddington to Plymouth instead, better serving the residents of Cornwall.
We're joining forces with the Western Morning News, along with our sister papers in Cornwall and Devon, to call for a second line which avoids the wave-battered stretch at Dawlish.
We're sending a united message to the Government on behalf of the whole of our beleaguered region.
The message is clear and simple: "HS2 can wait, we need Great Western 2 – or GW2 – now."
Estimates of the exact cost of the West Country's railway crisis to the regional economy are already mind-boggling and as every minute goes by that cost will be rising.
Devon and Cornwall Business Council leader Tim Jones put the cost to the region's economy as a whole at £20m per day.
Even the best-case scenario for repair puts the timescale at "weeks", with many predicting it will be several months before the trains are back on track.
That a region of this size now finds itself with no rail link is unacceptable.
What makes the situation even harder to stomach is that it was so predictable.
Business leaders and politicians have been lobbying over the fragility of the rail line, at Dawlish particularly, for years.
The line has been out of action many times before, and however long it takes to repair, will be many more times in the future.
That it is why a permanent solution must now be found and why today The Cornishman – backed by our sister titles the West Briton and the Cornish Guardian in Cornwall, and the Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald – is launching a campaign demanding this solution be found.
The eye-watering £30 billion to be spent on HS2, an upgrade to London's already efficient link to the Midlands, seems an incredible luxury when viewed next to a region of more than one million people which is now completely cut off from the rail network.
Last week Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin confirmed a government review to examine alternatives to the Great Western rail line.
He pledged in the House of
Commons a "rigorous review" of other options.
Alternative routes – including the closed Exeter to Plymouth line through Okehampton – have been discussed for years, but governments have baulked at the price. There must be no more baulking. The people of the West Country, and their businesses, deserve better.
Repairing the line at Dawlish is a priority. The Government must provide significant funding so this can be done as a matter of urgency.
But a more permanent solution must be found too – and this will inevitably mean an alternative route.
HS2 can wait, the West Country needs Great Western 2 – or GW2 – now.