Winter disruption saddles Westcountry businesses with £167m bill
Disruptions caused by extreme weather to the region's road and rail network are said to have cost Westcountry businesses £167 million.
A new survey by the South West Chambers of Commerce found that 65 per cent of businesses in the region were affected by road closures and rail services delays and cancellations as a result of snow and flooding over the last few months.
As a result, the chamber is calling for the A303 and A30 to be dualled throughout. Two respondents said disruptions had cost their businesses more than £500,000, with one saying that none of their employees had been able to get to work at one point because of problems on the road network. In December, a landslide caused by severe flooding closed the Bristol rail line between Exeter and Tiverton for five days, with train operator First Great Western advising passengers not to travel by rail to Devon and Cornwall.
More than 350 businesses took part in the survey and the results are set to inform a lobbying campaign aimed at securing investment to upgrade the region's fragile road and rail infrastructure.
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Derek Phillips, chairman of South West Chambers of Commerce, said: "Our message to Government is that the South West has received far less than its fair share of investment in transport infrastructure for far too long and it is time that this unacceptable situation ceases. We are specifically looking for electrification of the rail line south of Bristol into Cornwall, the dualling of the A303 and A30 along their entire lengths and much improved mobile and wi-fi connectivity along the arterial routes to the South West."
The chambers are highlighting new statistics which show that the average public sector spend for transport in 2010/11 was just £212 per person in the South West, the lowest figure in the UK, and just over a quarter of the spend per person in London. They say transport problems have meant the late or non-arrival of staff and clients; cancelled or postponed appointments and business trips; cancelled hotel bookings; a drop in customers for retail companies and resource issues for businesses relying on an inward supply of goods. This resulted in lost revenue, loss of working days and reduced productivity.
The survey found that 25 per cent of businesses secure more than 75 per cent of their revenue from outside the South West, and a third of South West businesses use transport links to get to and from other parts of the UK on a daily basis.