James Heappey Weekly Column

In my last column I wrote about the newly crafted industrial strategy for our region and my hopes for how it might catalyse some change in our county's economy. An important part of that change, however, is not just the industries we seek to encourage and the skills we need people to have, but our infrasturcutre too.

Much has changed in the last few years; new trains run on the Great Western network and the electrification to Bristol has meant that journey times from London will be reduced significantly. Smart motorway enhancements are improving things on the M5 but it is still clogged up too often and so it is reassuring to see the new PM confirm his commitment to dualling the A303.

Yet these improvements to major rail and road routes in our region are a threat as well as an opportunity. I have written before about the dangers of mid-Somerset becoming the rock in the stream around which road and rail traffic can move increasingly easily but with little improvement to connections for our immediate area.

This is why I continue to believe that improvements to the road from Junction 23 of the M5 are vital to the Mendip area. Some new stretches of road around Aschott, Walton and Glastonbury will allow traffic to move in and out from the motorway improving life enormously for resident and motorist alike.

Just as important is the campaign to bring the railway back to Shepton Mallet. The track is still down and well maintained by the quarries and the East Somerset Vintage Railway. Elsewhere in the country lines cut by Beeching but maintained since have been brought back into commerical passenger service so there's no reason that can't happen here. GWR and Netowrk Rail are interestesd, so are the DfT. I'll keep pushing it.