MP says ‘improve our county transport links’

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CONSERVATIVE MP Edward Leigh has criticised his party’s plans for a new £33bn high-speed rail network to cut journey times to the capital.

The MP for Market Rasen refuses to admit he thinks the plans are waste of time, but insists the high-speed 250mph rail link is the “wrong priority”.

Mr Leigh wants the Conservative party to focus on improving transport links in rural areas like Lincolnshire, upgrading the existing rail network and helping passengers with their fares.

He said: “The lack of public transport in Lincolnshire particularly affects young people who can’t afford to buy cars.

“If people in rural areas like Market Rasen are going to get out to work we need to make sure we have good bus links in these places.

“Improving transport links in rural areas like Lincolnshire is more important than a high-speed rail link to London.”

Mr Leigh said he was not happy about the fact an average full-time worker in his constituency, who takes home a salary of just over £29,000, would have to spend a “staggering” 26 per cent of their earnings to pay for a weekly any time return ticket to London.

Speaking in the Commons Mr Leigh said: “That is not acceptable, and something must be done.

“We must have less emphasis on the high-speed rail link and all those wonderful projects and more emphasis on helping ordinary people in rural areas.”

He said he did not know how much he thought the fare should be but insisted the existing £150.50 ticket was too expensive.

Mr Leigh said he was most concerned about students and the elderly not being able to afford rail fares to London.

He said: “We should spend the £33m on improving the existing network and helping rail travellers with their fares. It would be a cheaper and better option.”

Earlier this month rail fares across the country went up by six per cent which means a return ticket from Market Rasen to Lincoln is now £5.50.

The high-speed rail network aims to halve journey times between London and Birmingham, later extending to northern England. The first phase of the project was last week given the go ahead by the Government despite strong opposition.