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Severed rail link will cost local economy £20m a day- but Devon and Cornwall are open for business

By WMNCBarnes  |  Posted: February 06, 2014

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The cost of storm waters severing the Westcountry’s mainline rail link will run into millions – and as much as £20 million a day, according to industry leaders.

While around 10% of journeys into the region are made by rail, the link into the heart of the capital is a vital one for business travellers.

Cornwall Chamber of Commerce chief executive Kim Conchie estimates that the impact of the severed rail link will be between £6 million and £8 million a day in the Duchy alone.

He said that a fraction of the £40 billion London-Midlands High Speed 2 budget spent upon upgrades to the Westcountry’s rail connection would make “a massive difference.”

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“It’s a lack of will, rather than an ability to solve the problem,” he said. “The only good that can come out of it, is that the issue is raised in the national news.”

Devon and Cornwall Business Council leader Tim Jones said that the estimated £20 million daily cost of the collapsed rail line to the Westcountry economy as a whole, could be partly incurred through doubts over whether the region was “open for business.” The DCBC has based its sums upon figures collated in the wake of floods last year, which brought train services to as standstill for a week at a total cost of around £170 million locally.

Cost factors also include increased travel times for executives who command fees of hundreds of pounds an hour, and the loss of trade for station-based businesses such as shops, cafes and taxi firms.

Mr Jones said: “This has been an accident waiting to happen and we’ve been banging on about it for 20 years. The answer is for the Government to throw enough money at it so it doesn’t happen again – very little compared to HS2.”

Among the businesses to have has to make swift plans to keep on track is Chirk-based chip board manufacturer Kronospan, which freights timber from Newton Abbot to its North Wales base.

Kronospan’s Chris Emery said that in the short term it would have to source additional timber and begin its journey from Exeter as it evaluates the situation.

HeadForwards, based at the Pool Innovation Centre, does work on a global level providing outsourced software development.

Director Toby Parkins said: “We have regular visits from Japanese clients who normally arrive via train from Heathrow and this will disrupt and delay journeys.

“We are similar to many other Cornish companies who are often under the radar but actually carrying out international export work- and the difficulties in communication make things a lot harder.

“In my role as president of Cornwall Chamber we are meeting the transport minister in March to review and reinforce the issues and I'm hoping to take as many stories from as many businesses as possible to that meeting so we can present the weight of the problem to him in no uncertain terms.”

Meanwhile, Exeter Airport based Capital Air Charters hopes it will benefit from the rail-line chaos, by flying stranded business delegates to essential meetings. Sales director Lisa Humphries said: “It’s an opportunity for us.”

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