On a brief visit to Penzance, Transport Minister Jo Johnson said he ‘totally gets’ the argument that West Cornwall’s food and drink producers should be able to send their products to London by train making use of space available on passenger services.
I met the Minister at Penzance station with local businessmen Robin Turner and Tristan Hugh-Jones and he completely understood the arguments that the train should be taking more of our Cornish goods from Penzance up to London.
Our road infrastructure is struggling to cope with the ever-increasing amount of traffic which is clogging up the main roads into Cornwall.
Sending some of our much sought-after produce by train will reduce the number of road haulage journeys to London with a corresponding cut in emissions, while customers will have much greater certainty that their order of fresh Cornish produce will arrive on time and in good condition.
I am very pleased that the Minister has agreed to write to Cornwall Council and the LEP, encouraging them to find funding for a feasibility study into the requirement for freight on the service from Penzance to Paddington.
In March 2016, I hosted a Parliamentary event when Cornish producers travelled with 7.5 tonnes of goods to the House of Commons, meeting more than 40 London-based purchase managers. Last year I hosted trade fair at Porthleven, again showcasing local produce and canvassing support for the rail freight service from guest visitor Prince Charles.
There has been a limited train freight service available from Penzance for the past couple of years which has been used by meat and dairy producers, brewers, cider makers, gin distillers, seafood suppliers, artists and even an ‘Extreme Cake-Maker’.
However, the new Hitachi Hi-Speed trains, which come into service on the Penzance to Paddington route next month, will not have any space for freight.