Last month - whilst I was away, Tom Flanagan, Cornwall Council's chief officer in charge of economic development, highways and transport, gave a presentation to the Cabinet on the challenges facing East Cornwall.
I've complained for a while that Cornwall Council was focusing too much on mid and West Cornwall and was neglecting the East. It was therefore very good to see that the problems we face in the East were being recognised at Cabinet level.
On the back of this presentation, I asked Tom if he could help with one of the particular challenges in Launceston - that of connections to other parts of Cornwall. I had raised this issue before but not received a proper answer. Because Launceston has no access to the rail network, local people without cars are heavily reliant on the bus network if they want to be able to get around. Not just that, but if we are to make the best of the attractions we have to offer, visitors need to be able to get here.
Launceston has a pretty decent town bus service and connections to Bude, Exeter and Plymouth - although these are very patchy at times. We also have a bus service to Liskeard - the closest rail station - but this doesn't work early or late in the day and so someone wanting to get to Truro for 10am cannot do so. Local people without their own cars who need to get further west for work find it almost impossible to do so.
So I asked what would be needed in order for a new bus route to be set up linking Launceston to Bodmin - both town and rail station.
The answer, regrettably, was fairly negative. Because there are few villages along the route, officers felt that such a service would not have many passengers. They point out, probably correctly, that few people would wish to use the service to get from Launceston to Bodmin town (or vice versa). The primary reason for such a new service would be to link to the rail network. With such a service likely to cost the council around £1000 a week for just two return journeys a day, and likely low passenger numbers, it is unlikely that such a service could come close to breaking even.
Instead, the Council suggests that strengthening the Liskeard link would be the better option. I have asked them to look into this - particularly laying on buses earlier in the morning and later in the evening so that people who work or want to make day trips down the line could do so from Launceston.
Many thanks to Tom and his team for looking into this for me and I hope that we might get some more positive results soon.