• Rail Services & Climate Change

    The Moorlander
    16 September 2019

    One of my top priorities as an MP has been to improve rail links in Central Devon through the introduction of a regular passenger service between Okehampton and Exeter. The Teignbridge part of our constituency is well served through Newton Abbot station, but tens of thousands of residents in and around Okehampton are up to an hour away from their nearest station. Last week I met with the new Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps MP as I wanted a commitment that the Department for Transport will respond quickly when the feasibility study it has commissioned has been completed. This will be vital in ensuring there are no delays to other agencies and organisations beginning their necessary preparations. I had secured this commitment from the previous Secretary of State and I am determined that that commitment should stand - I am pleased to report that it does. I believe there is a very real possibility that this service could be introduced and maybe as early as 2021.

    As well as the economic benefits, there will be substantial environmental benefits to more people being able to travel into Exeter by train. It will reduce congestion into Exeter at the Alphington roundabout and taking more cars off the A30 will improve air quality for villages close to the A30 and help reduce our local carbon footprint. This goal is connected to another meeting I held in the constituency last week, with climate change activists from across our constituency. It was a passionate discussion and one that underlined the momentum behind the cause. While Brexit may have dominated the headlines so far in 2019, climate change has probably been the second most talked about issue, with the Extinction Rebellion demonstrations, the Amazon fires and Greta Thunberg’s voyage across The Atlantic. But the significant progress being made to tackle it here in the UK has not had the attention it deserves. In the last decade the proportion of our nation’s energy that comes from renewable electricity generation has risen from 6% to 33% and our overall levels of greenhouse gas emissions have fallen by 25%. £52billion has been invested by the Government in renewable energy and all UK coal-fired power stations will close by 2025. Before I left the Cabinet in July one of the last acts of my time in Government was to support the UK becoming the first major economy in the world to legislate to end our contribution towards global warning by achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

    New employment figures released this week show that wages have grown at their fastest pace for eleven years and have now risen ahead of inflation for 18 consecutive months. Average weekly earnings for employees increased by 4.0% compared with a year ago – growing by 2.1% after adjusting for inflation. UK employment now stands at 32.78million, up 369,000 over the last year, and our unemployment rate (3.8%) remains the lowest since 1975.

    For more from Mel follow him on twitter @MelJStride or visit