MEP Giles Chichester has criticised the decision not to include the South West in the �32.7bn HS2 plans

HS2 rail plans accused of ignoring South West

The government has been accused of ignoring the South West as part of its HS2 high-speed rail link investment.

Rail users groups in the far west of England have long said their transport links with London are much-maligned, and have been neglected by successive governments.

MEP Giles Chichester has taken up their case and, in an open letter, criticised the decision not to include the South West in the £32.7 billion HS2 plans.

Prime Minister David Cameron said last month that extending the already planned London to Birmingham HS2 line as far as Manchester and Leeds would "spread wealth and prosperity" around the country.

Chichester said: "The good people of Leeds and Manchester must be experiencing a warm glow now they know the government is to lavish more than £30 billion of investment on speeding up their journeys to London through the (HS2) rail link. It must be nice to be so loved.

"The journey between London and the farther reaches of the West Country is just as long and just as important to our economy. 

"Would it be too much to ask for the Department for Transport (DfT) to spare a fraction of the cost of HS2 to at the very least electrify our railway links to London?"

He added: "We have been the Cinderella region of the British railway network far too long. Whitehall has rightly recognised through HS2 the importance of fast rail travel to the economy and to regional prosperity. Now let's have some fare shares."

Tony Bowditch, chairman of the St Germans Rail Users Group in Cornwall, said he agreed with Chichester's comments, adding: "I don't think the South West is considered an important area for transport - the big conurbations in the South East, the Midlands and the north of England are taking priority."

A DfT spokesman said the government is "committed to the development of the country's railways" with £9.4 billion invested by 2019 throughout the regions - including the South West.

The spokesman said: "The department is working hard with Network Rail, local authorities and bidders to improve journey times throughout the South West and develop new services.

"These include improved links between Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Heathrow airport, while providing quicker journeys between Bristol and Taunton.

"We have also asked investors to provide initial costs for a possible new rail service to Tavistock and Okehampton."

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