Scott is campaigning to get better and faster railway links in and around North Cornwall to boost tourism and business. The collpase of the sea wall at Dawlish in 2014 illustrated the vulnerability of the rail network in the South West, and Scott and many other MPs from the region are campaigning hard to get more money and more action to safeguard the region's railways which are vital for all constituencies in Devon and Cornwall.
North Cornwall used to be a hive of railway activity. From Exeter, one could catch a train to Bude, Launceston, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow, as well as numerous villages in between. It also accommodated some of the most important freight lines in Cornwall for china clay. In 1963, a government report identified 2,363 stations and 5,000 miles of track for closure to make the UK rail network more sustainable and cost effective.
The end result of railway closures saw every mile of mainline rail close in North Cornwall, although a stretch from Bodmin Parkway to Boscarne Junction, via Bodmin General, has since re-opened as a preserved steam railway as well as a narrow gauge line in Launceston. The whole of Cornwall saw lines and stations disappear, and now there is only one mainline running east to west, plus branch lines to Gunnislake, Looe, Newquay, Falmouth, and St Ives.
Not all the lines that once ran throughout North Cornwall can be replaced. The landscape has changed significantly over the decades due to development of houses and roads. The percentage of people owning cars is much higher than 60 years ago as well. But it is realistic to campaign for some lines to be reinstated in Cornwall and Devon that would benefit North Cornwall and better connect towns and communities.
The Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) - which is made up of various councils and LEPs including Cornwall Council and the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly LEP - is campaigning for the Government to commit to big investments that will improve our railways, including more electrification, better signalling, resilience of the Dawlish sea wall, plus additional lines. The Task Force has the support of South West MPs including Scott.
Scott is currently supporting the following projects which have been proposed or have potential to become a reality:
- Extension of line from Boscarne Junction to Wadebridge - the Bodmin and Wenford Railway Trust is looking to reinstate the line which once ran to Wadebridge alongside the River Camel. Although now a cycle trail, the proposal would see the return of steam trains between Bodmin and Wadebridge with a trail running parallel for cyclists, walkers, and horse riders. The Camel Trail is a vital part of both North Cornwall's recreational and tourism industries. Scott wants to see trains returning to Wadebridge, but not at the expense of bikers, walkers or horse riders. This line could be hugely beneficial for Wadebridge in terms of transport links for locals as well as extra visitor footfall.
'MP Scott Mann backs plans for steam trains on Camel Trail' (Cornish Guardian)
- Mainline services to Bodmin General - Bodmin is currently served by Bodmin Parkway for mainline rail services, but the station is located outside of the town on the A38 which is prone to closure because of road works or accidents. Bodmin Parkway is also located just across the constituency border in South-east Cornwall. The return of a mainline service to Bodmin General would provide a year-round link to Bodmin Parkway which is only a short walk from the town centre. Although tickets are now available to Bodmin General from mainline stations, mainline services themselves are not. Being a preserved steam railway, there are little services in the winter, but a mainline service would avoid this and form part of a consistent rail link for Bodmin residents and visitors.
'Scott Mann visits Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway' (B&WR website)
- Reinstatement of line between Exeter and Plymouth (via Okehampton) - North Devon also saw many miles of its railways vanish which were integral in connecting North Cornwall to Exeter and beyond. Scott supports calls for the reinstatement of the line which used to run between Exeter and Plymouth via Okehampton.
The route is currently fragmented. A branch line remains in place between Exeter and Okehampton which continues a short distance to Meldon as part of a heritage railway. The line from Exeter to Okehampton has a limited number of mainline services during the summer season. Scott and many others want to see the complete reinstatement of the line from Okehampton to Plymouth, thus creating a second complete through line to Exeter. Not only would this offer relief to the Dawlish mainline which is prone to storm damage, but it would also open up North Cornwall to more visitors and business thanks to closer rail links.
The PRTF has named the Okehampton line as a future option and Scott is continually pressing the Government to consider it. The Department for Transport is already reviewing the PRTF's Interim Report, and a full 20-Year-Plan Report will be published in the autumn of 2016.