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One of the reasons why visitor numbers have been declining in the South West is down to the limited and susceptible road and rail infrastructure which can both strangle and cut off the entire region.

As a visitor attraction, our season has been seriously marred in 2014 by the major physical damage to the rail network at Dawlish, plus the crisis in confidence of potential visitors in coming to the SW who then booked holidays elsewhere either in the UK or overseas. People still asked us if we were underwater as late as August in the main tourist season!

We need two main rail routes through the region and two major motorways or dual carriageway A class roads, so that people have a choice of routes, especially if one is damaged, closed through accidents or the weather is in charge.

The SW of England is the country’s tourism hub and a veritable gem, but it is lagging behind the rest of the country and visitors often comment how poor and limited our infrastructure is in comparison to where they live. This not only applies to road and rail, but also to simple things like mobile ‘phone coverage and broadband.

Tourism in the SW is a great driver of the region’s economy, but we cannot grow and meet increasingly high visitor expectations if we are hamstrung by poor and ageing infrastructure which does not have alternative routes.

-South Devon Railway, Devon

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“My comments are mainly on behalf of Numatic International Ltd, a manufacturing company employing 800 staff in Chard, Somerset. They echo the responses we have previously given to Somerset County Council on this subject.

“Our products, which include the well-known Henry vacuum cleaner, are made here in Chard and exported worldwide. Not surprisingly, we also have a supply chain for materials and components from the UK, European mainland and the Far East. The major customers in the UK tend to have large distribution centres to which we have very specifically timed delivery slots. Failure to meet the specified slot can result in penalties and even the shipment being turned away. This is typical for suppliers to our major retailers throughout the country, so it is not difficult to imagine the vast cost of congested roads and unpredictable journey times to individual companies such as Numatic and the economy as a whole. Conversely, deliveries coming into the company, which almost entirely travel via the M5 or the A303, are frequently delayed, either due to congestion or any sort of accident occurring.

“Nowhere is this more of a problem than in the SW. The lack of completion of the dualling of the A303 is a farce and a national disgrace. The impact on SW businesses, and tourism in particular, must run into billions, I am sure that accident levels must be higher, also, due to the congestion at bottlenecks and the frustration caused to drivers. As a personal example, in July, I holidayed in Tuscany and drove there and back. Coming back via France, there was only one short holdup in Italy due to a minor accident and then we travelled 1,000 miles without any problems until we got to Stonehenge. Queuing there took 30+ minutes to get through, and that was on a Monday afternoon.

“Further down the SW Peninsula, the infamous bottleneck at Temple, on the A30, with no alternative diversions, can cause delays of several hours at peak travel times and must put thousands of potential holidaymakers off going to Cornwall, an area with low average income levels that depends so much on tourism.”

– Numatic International Ltd, Somerset

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“I fully support the view that it is vitally important to improve the road, rail and broadband connections in the South West.“This would improve efficiency, help protect the environment and save lives.
“These updates are long overdue.“The A303 should be dualled along its whole length. Ideas about putting in single carriageway roads are just crazy – look at the accident rates of roads such as the A361 in Devon which was part dualled and part a single carriageway and compare the statistics. My village is bypassed by the A361 and we suffer from traffic diverted when there are accidents that close the road.“I travel throughout the region by road and to other parts of the country visiting schools. I try to use public transport whenever possible but all too often I cannot because of unreliability of it, An Improved rail network would enable me to take the train more often.”The slow broadband speeds here cost us dearly in extra time and efficiency.”– Education Matters, Devon

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“I feel the companies in the south west are exploiting the workers here. We moved from London and while house prices are cheaper nothing else is :-/ Bus fares are ridiculous and train fares as bad. Traffic is crazy on the 358 and there is only bus available to get to Taunton by 9am …”

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“I need to travel by rail to meetings and conferences. I can get a bus from Okehampton for an 8.45sam train to London but I arrive on the train back in Exeter after the buses have stopped and I do not feel its safe leave my car for several days in Exeter car parks.“If we had a regular national rail service on the Okehampton line I would be using the train for the full journey and walk to my house.

“Okehampton is growing hugely, there is a large development of new housing currently being built. It is time we had a national rail service. We have the infrastructure from our private railway to be used.”

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“My established business is based in Salcombe, in the South Hams. As a boutique we enjoy patronage from many of Salcombe’s visitors and second home owners.“In the absence of visitors and second home owners, we would go out of business, as would an enormous amount of the businesses based here. We hear all too often about the problematic, time consuming journeys experienced by our customers.

“Conversely, we are obliged to visit London several times each year to carry out the buying side of our business. This is extremely time consuming and almost prohibitively expensive. We justify it through our desire to remain ‘exclusive’ – not through price but because all too few retailers travel as extensively as we do to source our brands.
We contribute to the local economy and have received national recognition for our business.

“Business here is very seasonal and we must ensure our customers enjoy every aspect of their stay or visit.

“Access and travel are hugely influential in this regard.

“A dual carriageway is an absolute must to sustain our businesses.”

– Business owner, Devon

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“Road and Broadband improvements are essential for business development in the South West. Major towns are poorly connected, leaving talent untapped. Investment in better connections is sure to pay for itself through better trade, employment and tourism.”

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“We employ 15 people in South Devon working in skilled It jobs, creating and marketing software in UK and abroad. While Broadband connections have greatly changed the way we do business over the years, it remains, and will always remain necessary to travel to visit customers on site for sales, account management as well as directly supporting customers on site.“We are committed to the area and proud to provide skilled and well paid work. As the business continues to grow, the pressures on us from difficult transport links also increase and in turn become a pressure to move to the other side of the bottlenecks of Somerset. This applies both in our travelling up country, and in recruiting people to come and work with us.

“Improving such links affordably is a far higher priority for us than rural broadband, despite our sector, and will have much higher impact on our continued location in the region, with the growing employment opportunities we provide.”

– Business, Devon

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“Having involved in both tourism and commercial activities over the past 35 years in Devon, one of the most common reasons give by customers for not visiting more often are the poor road links to the county,“Hold ups and closures on both the A303 and M5 cause frustration to both visitors,( particularly for short breaks/ weekends) and suppliers.

“Poor infrastructure, both access and broadband are the major reasons holding back development of business in the region.

“This in term reduces tax revenue and employment.

“This must be a reason for investment as it would in a real commercial world, but apparently not in the world of political spin.”

– Avon Farmers Ltd, Devon

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“I manage a Tourist Information Centre in South Devon and am Vice Chairman of the Kingsbridge & Salcombe Chamber of Commerce.“The dualling of the A303 has to be a very high priority in view of the economic damage and the limits to growth created by the current situation.”– South Devon

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“I have recently moved back to Devon having moved away for work reasons in 1980. I am shocked by the way the area has been allowed to degrade. Many people living here do not have their own transport and are therefore reliant upon public transport. Unless public transport in North Devon is greatly improved this area will continue to decline. High unemployment exists in the Torridge and North Devon district but just a short journey away is Exeter with so many opportunities.“For the increasing number of elderly people there needs to be comfortable transport in order for them to attend the main hospitals in Exeter and Plymouth where the treatment of many illnesses are now concentrated.

“The A30 trunk road is becoming severely congested, particularly during July and August, and the roads leading off the A30 to places such as Bude, Holsworthy and Tavistock are congested and dangerous, they are almost the same in design as they were in the 1960’s and yet lorries, buses and coaches and agricultural vehicles are two or three times larger and heavier, and in the case of lorries, far more numerous.

“Unfortunately I fear that nothing will happen. We are just too far away from London but the demographics of the population is changing and from chatting to the older people who have retired to the area and the younger people who are desperate to find gainful employment there will be votes to gain by listening and giving the population of this area what they want.”

– Resident, Devon

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“I run a business from home in the South Hams. I moved down to Devon seven years ago from East Sussex. I thought East Sussex with, at the time, only 13 miles of dual carriageway had poor infrastructure until I arrived here. To get to the A38 along a so-called A road can take up to 40 minutes as it is, in places, single track with passing places and if two large vehicles meet there is immediate gridlock.“I have to travel to London by train on a regular basis but am also setting up a Clinical Study in Scotland. It is cheaper to fly to Edinburgh or Glasgow than take the train to London – the train service is really slow and I am appalled that nothing substantial is planned to improve matters when a fortune is to be spent on high speed rail links elsewhere.

“My broadband is one eighth of the speed it was in a remote Sussex village seven years ago! Plans for our village to put in its own superfast optic fibre broadband was crushed for political reasons. We will end up with a second class system that will not reach everyone who needs it.

“If there was an option to be independent from Westminster and handle our own affairs it would get massive support. I feel Devon is unloved and treated as second class and if the main political parties expect support from the South West in the future they may be in for a nasty surprise.”

– Business owner, Devon

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“The A303 needs to be dualled asap. Far overdue.“Poor broadband speeds are holding our company back and lead to increased overheads through inefficiency.”– Bang Wallop, Devon

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“An inland rail link is vial. It make no sense to have one (fragile) line running along the south coast, geographically as far away from most areas of the region as possible. The most obvious route of the pre-existing inland Okehampton line.”

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“I work for an Agricultural Research Institute based in West Devon. We have 50 employees on site, but each year host over 200 visitors, many of whom arrive by rail. The lack of a rail service between Exeter and Okehampton means a 1.5 hour round trip for a driver or an expensive taxi fare to collect these visitors. Add to this the fact that the problems at Dawlish last year left many people outside of the South West with the impression that we were ‘cut off’ and they shouldn’t attempt to travel and you are left wondering which century we are actually living in.“I am a frequent visitor to the Western Isles of Scotland and I see businesses and communities thriving on the strength of transport links and high-speed communication. We are a 2.5 hour rail journey from London and yet, in the Winter, we might as well be in Outer Mongolia. This is mainland UK in the 21st century. Wonderful as Brunel’s railway is – is it not time to build a new one?”– Employee, Devon

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“We run an award winning B&B in East Devon; our guests spend money at local restaurants, pubs, shops, gardens/NT houses and attractions.“One of the common complaints of getting to this area is the poor road between Ilminster and Honiton. The government need to take a long term view on the A303 and A30 – it is no good patching it up and hoping minor improvements will do. The route to the west country is only going to get busier and a strategy to ensure economic growth is vital if small businesses are to survive. The only way forward is to bite the bullet and make it all dual-carriageway.”– Devon

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“The west country has bean waiting for so much for so long roads rail etc perhaps at last the government is listening.”

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“We are a firm of solicitors based mostly in South Devon but with a wide reach and in particular a necessity to meet clients in London and the south-east. We struggle because the road links are so poor with constant traffic jams on the M5 near Bridgwater and the alternative A303 frequently congested especially at Stonehenge. Why the “merge in turn and use both lanes” is not adopted at every stage is beyond me because it is so cheap to do and would provide some immediate alleviation of the problems. When we have tried to use train the cost has often been greater than regional air flights but then none really exist for us as an option. In January of this year was cheaper to fly to New York than go by train to London.“The dualling of the A303 has to be a very high priority in view of the economic damage and the limits to growth created by the current situation.”– Bartons, Devon

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“I live in Cornwall and am visited by family members who live in London. They travel down by car and are appalled by not only our lack of infrastructure but the state of our road surfaces. Traffic jams where dual carriageways narrow to single lane sections make the journey more tiresome.“I also visit my family in London travelling by train but find that the only train line we have means that the service is limited and the route elongates the time the journey takes.

“I see businesses in Cornwall closing down because of the difficulty in accessing this region.

We pay into the “system” as much as anyone elsewhere in the country but suffer from lack of equal investment in vital links to the rest of the country. In London it is easy to get around on buses but here in our rural area the bus service is totally inadequate. To travel thirty or so miles to the hospital can be a four hour journey with long waits at connections. I like many other am pensioners dread having to make that journey.

“Why should we be penalised just for living in a rural area and not close to Westminster?”

– Resident, Cornwall

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“The upgrading of the A30/A303 to dual carriageway throughout is urgently required. I use this road regularly for business travel purposes and due to its poor quality my journeys are much longer than would be the case if the road was improved. This is quite simply a waste of my time, which would be better spent on more productive pursuits.”

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“We desperately need better rail connections and improvements in our road network in the Westcountry. Currently it is impossible to get to work via public transport unless you work in one of the cities or large towns, and cutbacks to services mean that people in a single household rarely work in the same area. For tourists and local people in the summertime the roads become a nightmare and congestion on the A303 and A30 can double normal journey times. Where train connections do exist, out of date trains make journeys frequently uncomfortable and there is absolutely no chance that you can get any work done on the train, which for many is the attraction of train travel (the Barnstaple to Exeter train service springs to mind). We’ve seen our taxes spent on a high speed rail connection between the Midlands and London that reduces journey times, but surely there is a greater need to connect communities that don’t have any transport links?“In short, for people and businesses to excel in the Westcountry we desperately need improvements to our out of date, dilapidated transport network.”

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“I live in Devon (Okehampton) and feel strongly that the outer regions of the country need to be reliably connected with the rest of the country in order to get the most out of the economic and social resources of this country and of the Southwest in particular.”– Resident, Devon

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“I am totally in favour of any improvements which can be made to the A303 and A358“I live in Somerset and travel on the A303 and A358 almost on a daily business, as I regularly have to be in the Bristol / Southampton / Exeter area. The road system, as it stands, is a nightmare and was not designed to carry the amount of traffic it now sees, with a lot of my time wasted caught up in slow/non-moving traffic, affecting the efficiency of my businesses.

“I also have to travel to London and the north of the UK, and find the rail links slow and laborious, which is extremely frustrating! Together with the extreme weather experienced this winter, which it is thought will now become the norm, the south west of the country was completely cut off from the rest of the UK rail links, and the cost to businesses through unreliability of supply will cost many businesses dearly.

“In summary, the south west does not have the same access by road or rail that the south east / London have, which puts us at a considerable disadvantage, affecting growth and employment throughout the region.”

– Wessex Commercial Solutions, Somerset

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“We are a Property Management Services firm based mostly in South Devon but with a wide reach and in particular a necessity to meet clients in London and the south-east. We service predominantly private second homes and holiday homes, the majority of which receive owners and guests from the South East. We, our owners and guests struggle because the road links are poor, with constant traffic jams on the M5 near Bridgwater and the alternative A303 frequently congested, especially at Stonehenge. When we try to use the train the cost is often greater than that of regional air flights but unfortunately very few air flights are available. The result of the poor transport links is reduced visitors to the area and restricted business growth for our company and all other businesses in the area. Many solutions are required but one that must be a priority is to make the A303 a dual carriageway.”

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“Improve the A303!“Improve rural broadband rollout”

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“For many years the South West Peninsula – particularly Devon and Cornwall – has suffered from a lack of infrastructure improvements, not only in the two counties, but especially to the 303 from Ilmister. It is essential that this road is dualled as soon as possible. The road will, within 10 years, hardly be noticed and not be a blot on the landscape as the objectors make out. The same objections were made when the Okehampton bypass was built and now it’s a job to see it from a distance.“As usual the improvements in any form of communications take many years to filter down to the really rural areas such as here west from Bideford. We pay the same taxes, phone charges and road fund licence but get a much worse service.”

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“The Tarka Rail Association which represents users of the increasingly busy Exeter to Barnstaple railway fully supports all efforts to restore a regular through rail service between Exeter, Crediton, Okehampton, Tavistock and Plymouth on the superior engineered former main line railway via this route compared to the emergency closure prone route that includes the coastal and estuary section from Starcross through Dawlish and Teignmouth to Newton Abbot; in addition to the sharply curved, twisting with resultant excessive and costly wear on rails and wheels and also steeply graded line from Newton Abbot to Plymouth where the current 60 mph maximum speed could following a British Rail feasibility study of the 1980 ‘s only be very marginally raised and by many land purchases/track realignments which proved far too costly and thus unviable.“Not only would restoration of regular services to the former main line from Exeter to Plymouth via Okehampton and Tavistock benefit these growing Towns but would with a new Railhead ‘Parkway’ station at Sourton beside the A30 and A386/A3079 road interchanges hugely benefit the economy of West Devon and North Cornwall.

“A reopened Exeter to Plymouth railway via Okehampton & Tavistock would ALSO enable rail traffic for Plymouth, SW Devon and Cornwall to use this line as an alternative route when the current Exeter/N.Abbot/Plymouth line is closed due to emergencies and planned track & infrastructure works which cause rail passengers and freight customers major disruption, delay, inconvenience with, for passengers, unpopular substitution for journeys; in some cases for over 150 miles from Bristol to Truro!”

– The Tarka Rail Association, Devon

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“With impacts of climate change being more keenly felt in the future, the routing of the main rail link around the Devon coast seems ill prepared for future scenarios. A re-opening of the rail link between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton seems to satisfy a number of requirements – an alternative rail link that avoids low lying coastal areas prone to flooding and storm effects, access to the national rail network for the populace of the geographically large area around West Devon, and investment in a growing town currently lacking an adequate link to the rail network.”

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“The Federation of Small Businesses – Somerset and Wiltshire Regional Committee are, along with our strategic partners, asking Government for investment to:
•Improve and dual of the A303/A30/A358
•Improve the resilience, speed and capacity of our railway backed by flood improvement schemes
•Enable 100% roll out of superfast broadband by 2020 across the Peninsula“The Regional Committee represents c7,500 FSB Members in Somerset and Wiltshire Region.“We all too regularly hear from Members who struggle to run their business with inadequate access to Broadband and woefully poor mobile phone signals, particularly in rural areas. It is vital that these services, along with other infrastructure issues such as road and rail are improved across the SW if entrepreneurs are to create growth in our economy and opportunity locally.”– The Federation of Small Businesses – Somerset and Wiltshire Regional Committee 

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“It frequently occurs tome that we are sadly behind the times with our infrastructure in the South West.“As a District Councillor I am constantly approached about the traffic on the roads in Wellington. As a Town Councillor I see this on a daily basis. Our roads were made for horse and carts not cars and lorries and even though we struggle to get improvements with every new build this still means more cars on the road without great improvement. What is the answer? I believe investment in rail could work. We could have a railway station in Wellington as the track is still here. Will someone with more influence than myself be able to facilitate this? I do hope so!”– Councillor, Somerset

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“Thankfully the road I travel to work which includes the A3072 which has recently been improved much to everyone’s delight however there are a lot of the minor roads in our area including especially the road between Black Torrington and Stibb Cross which is in a dreadful state of repair. This road is used frequently by local residents , holiday makers and commuters, please lets have something done. many thanks.”– Resident, Devon

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