TRANSPORT Secretary Chris Grayling has been in Somerset today seeing first hand the sites for a number of proposed infrastructure projects for Taunton Deane.

Mr Grayling said improving road links in the South West was a priority and highlighted a number of schemes that have gained funding.

A total of £7.1m has been secured for a Queue Prevention Scheme between Junctions 24 and 25 of the M5, and another £4m from Highways England toward the upgrade of Junction 25. A further £6.7m has been secured for improvements to the Toneway and further money has been allocated for changes to the A303 and A358.

"First and foremost I am here to support Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow at the beginning of the General Election campaign," Mr Grayling said. "This is a really important period and we are working together to make sure we get Theresa May re-elected with the sort of mandate so that she can be in best possible position to provide the strong leadership we need in the Brexit negotiations."

He continued: "We are making the money available to finally deliver the road improvements this area really needs, but I want to make sure we get it right, and I thought it would be easiest for me to come and look for myself.

"I think you will have a mixture of improvements – on the existing M5 we’ve got junction improvements and the move toward smart motorways. That’s going to help ease congestion for the surrounding area, it will make the motorway more resilient and provide better connections for Taunton North and South.

"At the same time we are pressing ahead with the modernisation of the A303 and the A358, so that there is a proper second route for Taunton and for the South West toward London.

"It is important we consult with local people and Rebecca has been very helpful in saying to me: ‘The principle is great, the investment is very welcome but I just want to make sure we get it right’."

Mrs Pow said it was partly because of the line up of Conservative-led county and borough councils along with the MP that Taunton had been able to attract so much funding.

"Since my election I’ve really made it a priority to try and get money invested in infrastructure projects, because in the South West we are characteristically below productivity levels compared to the rest of the country.

"But actually Taunton Deane is a gateway to the South West and we just need the right tools in place so that we can move on those steps. 

"We’ve had the Liberal Democrats for all these years and we have not had the funding that we’ve deserved but now with the line-up of the Conservative council at Taunton Deane, the county council and myself, we’ve had a strong economy which has helped to attract this funding."

Rebecca Pow will be attending an open meeting in Stoke St Mary tonight discussing the proposed A358 improvements.

"I am really grateful we have the money, now we need to make sure the money goes in right place and make sure it solves the problems it is supposed to be solving," she said.

"It is important everyone can work together to feed into this process because it does not go without saying that the route we’ve got is the one that will happen."

Ms Pow added: "Now our job is to get stuck in which is why I asked the Transport Secretary down here because I know there is controversy about the site of the route and the fact that there is only one offer on the plan from Highways England. Where are the other routes for us to look at? Once we decide the route we need to work out technicalities, and as MP I will get absolutely stuck in to make sure we get the right project for the area."

Rival Taunton Deane parliamentary candidate Gideon Amos said bringing in a big name like Chris Grayling just showed how concerned the Conservatives were about Liberal Democrats winning the seat.

"It's clear the Conservatives are so worried about the LibDem surge in Taunton Deane they are already sending in Cabinet Ministers - the reality is that much of what they talk about was secured by Jeremy Browne and his LibDem colleagues when they worked for the station improvements for example," Mr Amos said.

"The real issue is that none of this transport infrastructure has made its way into Taunton or Wellington and yet our town centres continue to be gridlocked from all the new housing.

"The massive Conservative cuts to bus services are just forcing more cars onto the roads in a short sighted vicious circle. We need bolder and more imaginative solutions including better public transport and making a town which is attractive enough to walk and cycle around as well as for drivers. LibDems have always invested in these services."