I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Councillor Lewis Strange. He was an absolute stalwart of our county and dedicated so much of his time and energy to serving the people of Lincolnshire. Lewis served on both West Lindsey District Council and Lincolnshire County Council and gave much of his time to the Gainsborough Conservatives too. His kindness and dedication will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
Unfortunately COVID-19 continues to dominate our lives. We know that medically the threat is decreasing, but it's vital we keep up our hand-washing and social distancing to prevent a second wave overwhelming the NHS. We should now rely more on self-regulation by members of the public. Older people are well aware of their medical condition and can be trusted to take care. They will continue to need the help and support of family, friends, and neighbours. Just as schools are returning we need to get our businesses back in action and I'm glad we in Parliament are setting an example with the Commons returning to normal.
Our West Lindsey District Council officials have reacted brilliantly to the crisis, and when they were charged with disbursing grants from central government to support local business, they went into action quickly. Most businesses were able to benefit from a 48-hour turnaround between applying for a grant and the cash landing in their bank account. It's impressive work.
It's not just officials but also members of the public who are deserving of praise. At the end of March, Erika Coggins, Tom Austin, and Tim Cieslik started a group to help 3D-print face shields for NHS workers. With the growth in demand for PPE, Mr Cieslik found himself running six 3D printers from home with his wife and the group managed to make 300 shields a day.
Open Reach is gradually extending the fibre network in rural areas so we can expand access to superfast broadband. In 2018 44% of rural lines had access to at least superfast speeds at peak times, and that has increased to 56% last year.
Lincolnshire Conservative MPs have also been pressing for a direct rail link between Market Rasen and London. LNER is still taxpayer-owned and a little investment will go a long way. We'll keep up the constructive pressure until we get a firm commitment, but when I questioned him in the House recently the transport minister hinted that we made have a positive announcement soon.
Most of all though we're proud to see our Red Arrows remaining in Lincolnshire as the MOD announced recently. I have campaigned for ages to keep them in the Bomber County and while sad to see Scampton shut I'm pleased they'll find a home at Waddington.