The Prime Minister has today announced a £146.6 million package of rail improvements for Cornwall which will see a major upgrade to the Sleeper service, improved signalling on the main line and enhancements to the traincare maintenance centre in Penzance.
The announcement has been welcomed by Cornwall Council and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership who have spent the last 18 months working with First Great Western, Network Rail and the Department for Transport on new measures to improve rail services in Cornwall.
Last year First Great Western and the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership secured two additional carriages for the Night Riviera Sleeper service, one of only two Sleeper operations in the UK. Today’s announcement will see significant improvements to the quality of the Sleeper berths, day coaches and the saloon area by April 2016.
Video artist impression of the new Night Riviera Sleeper.
The package will also see Network Rail’s proposals to renew signalling across Cornwall’s 128 kilometres of main rail line brought forward by five years to December 2018. This will increase capacity, provide the opportunity for improved journey times in the future and support Cornwall Council's desire to provide a half-hourly service on the main line.
The third element of the package involves the improvement of the engineering capabilities and capacity of the train care depot in Penzance. Once operational in autumn 2016, the depot will provide modernised facilities to maintain the Sleeper with the capacity to add additional rolling stock in the future to support Cornwall Council’s desired service enhancements.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Ensuring that we have first class infrastructure across Britain is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan to back business, create jobs and provide a brighter future for hardworking people. This investment, which will boost the local economy and improve connectivity, is great news for Cornwall, the South West and beyond.”
Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Transportation, Bert Biscoe said:
“This announcement is great news for Cornwall. We have been working closely with the LEP and First Great Western to improve our rail services and are delighted that the Government is supporting our plans. This is a real opportunity to develop Cornwall’s public transport network. Enhancing the main line signalling in Cornwall is just as important as dualling the A30 and building the Tamar Bridge in keeping Cornwall connected.”
Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, Chris Pomfret said:
“Transport connectivity is always one of the first issues identified by the business community as a barrier to Cornwall’s economic growth. This investment makes a major step forward in addressing this issue through an enhanced sleeper service and potentially a more regular and resilient link to London and the rest of the country.
“Perhaps, just as importantly, is that this is a real demonstration of a council and LEP and the two relevant rail bodies and the Department for Transport working together to produce a solution that benefits all parties, but most particularly, the people of Cornwall.”
First Great Western Managing Director Mark Hopwood said:
“This is just another example of the significant investment that is benefitting customers across our network. At First Great Western we have a great track record of working with local authority partners and the wider rail industry to deliver significant improvements of real economic value for the communities we serve.
“This upgrade takes the Night Riviera Sleeper product to a whole new level, providing top class accommodation, increasing capacity and introducing a brasserie-style bar area while paving the way for potential future train service improvements.”
Network Rail’s Western Route Managing Director Patrick Hallgate said:
“The South West has a vibrant economy which is experiencing staggering growth in demand for rail travel. That can only be supported by putting in the best possible connections to the rest of the country. Network Rail is proud to be playing a part in that success story."
Work on the Sleeper upgrade will be carried out by Knorr-Bremse RailServices UK.
Managing Director, Paul Goodhand said:
“We are delighted to be involved with the improvement programme being implemented by First Great Western to their Night Riviera Sleeper service.
“Knorr-Bremse RailServices is carrying out a complete refurbishment on the trains which will make them even more attractive for passengers traveling the Paddington to Penzance route. We share with our customer, First Great Western, their ambition of making this route one of the most pleasurable long distance train routes for passengers in the UK.”