Cornwall is cut off from the rail network for much of this week due to strike action. The best that Sir Keir Starmer can do is say the Government wants this massive disruption, which is pathetic, ludicrous, and entirely irresponsible.
Having pumped billions of pounds into the rail industry during covid, it is the responsible thing for the Department for Transport to look at whether the network is run efficiently and meets passengers’ travel needs. I have a healthy relationship with GWR who generally provide a very good service to passengers but there is room for improvement and the cost of tickets is prohibitive for many. If there is room to improve the service and reduce the cost, it could lead to lower prices which has to be the right thing to aspire to. However, the median salary for railway workers is £45,000, which is £14,000 above the national average. RMT is demanding a pay rise which would wipe out any savings that might be made and any hope of a reduction in fares.
I’ve been exposed to gentle lobbying as I’ve gone into the ticket office in Penzance to buy my journey to Paddington. I’m told repeatedly that the ticket office is to close and that it features on a list for closure! The list is drawn up by the GMT Union and should not be taken as fact! However, in addition to a pay rise, the dispute relates to a workforce review and the problem staff in Penzance face is that 86% of train tickets are now sold online. It does not make sense to keep a large area of the station and several staff dedicated to 14% of ticket sales. I really enjoy my visits and chats with staff at the ticket office but I accept that it would be foolish to rule out the closure of the current ticket office set-up. However, I’m confident enough to say that whatever occurs at Penzance Station will not result in passengers abandoned to their own devices to plan their journey, find out what ticket they need and purchase it unaided. Any ‘development’ will ensure the excellent staff at Penzance are on hand to assist passengers! In the meantime, I’m not aware of any form of plan or decision to close Penzance ticket office and I’ve done a lot of digging.
This is your last chance to complete the NHS Dentistry survey I launched earlier in the year. My survey is as follows and I’m grateful to everyone who has completed it to date: https://www.derekthomas.org/dentalservices
We risk a legacy of unmet dentistry need and a generation marching towards poor oral health unless the Health Department accelerates reform of the NHS Dentistry Contract. Scores of dentists and staff have left the NHS and, in many cases, the profession itself.
This week I secured a debate to press the need to speed up the reform of the NHS Dental Contract. I called on the Government to match determination with action and get the contract sorted. It is the only way to restore dental appointment for those who need them.
Extra cash and flexibilities have been awarded by commissioners, due to campaigning by Cornish colleagues, and I have seen a steady increase in appointments for constituents. Progress is being made and I’m receiving letters and emails from constituents who have now benefited from our campaign, but we cannot rest until NHS dentistry is fixed and available when it is needed. Tinkering around the edges won’t cut it - we need a new dental contract!