Sunday, 16 March 2014

What transport infrastructure do we want for East Devon?

The District Council have sought to allay the fears of visitors and businesses after the recent floods:

SIDMOUTH: East Devon is ‘open for  business’, say councillors

SIDMOUTH: East Devon is ‘open for business’, say councillors

4th March 2014 By Jack Dixon.

East Devon is well and truly open for business despite its seaside resorts being hit by recent storms, according to district councillors.
At a meeting at Knowle last week, EDDC members said negative television headlines had put people off visiting the area, but they would continue to show their support for the local tourism trade.
Sidmouth Councillor Sheila Kerridge, who is also EDDC’s Tourism Champion, said: “It is easy to understand people in other parts of the UK and abroad seeing pictures of storm damage on their TV screens or Twitter feeds and assuming there is no point coming to Devon at the moment. What they need to know is that we are a resourceful and resilient lot down here and East Devon is already bouncing back from the storms.”

View From Online - News from West Dorset, East Devon & South Somerset

And there will be further investment for tourism in Devon:
Extra support for tourism in Devon after storms hit trade (From Mid Devon Star)

There are differing views, however, as to how to promote transport infrastructure in East Devon.

The Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce has been quite clear about its priorities:

Sidmouth chamber pens letter to PM over transport

Stefan Gordon Sunday, March 9, 2014

BUSINESS leaders in Sidmouth have penned a letter to the Prime Minister calling for the Government to invest in the South West’s road and rail networks. The chamber of commerce wants the issue of transport infrastructure addressed by David Cameron ‘as a matter of extreme urgency’.

Members were stirred to write to the premier following reports that Londoners enjoyed public investment of £2,731 per head on transport projects in 2011 – while in the South West it was £19. The letter calls for intervention works to protect the ‘glorious’ existing rail route via Dawlish.

“What we do not need is 20 years of chaos, uncertainly and wasted money, while alternative routes are considered,” says chamber chairman Steven Kendall-Torry. “The flood interruptions on the railway lines across the Somerset Levels may affect Sidmouth even more than the Dawlish problem. Therefore good road infrastructure is vital. The long awaited dualling of the A303 all of the way from the M3 to the M5 would significantly add to the resilience of East Devon’s links to London and the rest of the southern part of the UK.”

He adds that the ‘whole thing could be paid for several times over’ if the HS2 project was scrapped. Business leaders in the town have supported similar correspondence sent to Mr Cameron from Plymouth’s city council and chamber of commerce.

Sidmouth chamber pens letter to PM over transport - News - Sidmouth Herald
Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce - News

In other words: what are we to do with the HS2 project?
Futures Forum: HS2 and the South-West: District Council to debate

With regard to the support or otherwise of the District Council for this project, at the recent full council meeting the Leader answered Independent Cllr Roger Giles' written question asking if he believed the HS2 project should be abandoned and the monies invested instead in the existing railway network:

10. HS2 and rail infrastructure. The Leader said that the rail link at Dawlish was vital and that would be given Council support. The HS2 rail link was a separate nationally strategic issue.

But there are different opinions on this issue in East Devon, as noted by the SIN news blog quoting from the Herald:

Chamber of Commerce sends letter to David Cameron with a plea to invest in the South West’s rail and road infrastructure with, below the article, another that says that Leader of EDDC Council, Paul Diviani, refused to reconsider the council’s support for the HS2 rail line when local MPs Swire and Parish have already said that HS2 should not go ahead before the problems of the South West have been solved.

There is also the question of what transport links are to be provided for the new District Council HQ at Skypark:
Exeter bus strategy and Skypark | Sidmouth Independent News
A new bus service via Skypark would cost £100,000 a year | East Devon Alliance

... as well as the question of transport links to the District Council's showcase 'eco-town' of Cranbrook:
Housing Minister announces £20m investment for Cranbrook | The Ealing Daily
First Cranbrook train is delayed until 2015 | Exeter Express and Echo
Futures Forum: Cranbrook
CP Rail cuts safety inspectors in Cranbrook - Cranbrook Daily Townsman
Questions - Cranbrook Community Forum
Public Transport Experience: The Cranbrook Conundrum [2]

And there is the perhaps more profound question of how to ensure transparencey when it comes to awarding public contracts for the likes of infrastructure projects:
CBI says that all public contract information should be released and should be as accessible as possible | Sidmouth Independent News

Meanwhile, there are other options for transport infrastructure in East Devon...

The tram service to Seaton doesn't serve only the tourist:
Storm-ravaged private railways combine to deal with damage | Western Morning News
Seaton Tramway - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Devon Attractions and Family Days Out - Seaton Tramway

Perhaps it would be too costly let alone impractical to 'reopen' the Sidmouth railway line:
Lines that should reopen | Campaign for Better Transport

File:Exmouth & Sidmouth 1908.gif

Sidmouth Railway - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

However, former railway lines make great walkways and paths for rambling:
RR Home Page

There is of course the proposal to turn the course of the former Sidmouth to Feniton railway track into a formal walking and cycling path:
Otter Trail | Otter Shared Use Path
Proposed Cycle Route Sidmouth, Tipton, Ottery, Feniton - Cyclescape
Vision Group for Sidmouth - Feniton to Sidmouth cycle track latest

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