Talks to take place over possible electrification of the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Talks to take place over possible electrification of the Lakes Line between Oxenholme and Windermere
TRANSPORT Minister Norman Baker has agreed to meet rail campaigners who want to see the Lakes Line electrified.
Passenger numbers on the Oxenholme-Windermere route have soared in recent years, but there are fears there will be fewer direct trains to Manchester unless the line sees the levels of investment coming to other parts of the region.
Diesel trains transport half a million people along the ten-mile route each year.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron, who raised the issue with Mr Baker during Transport Questions in Parliament, said: “The electrification of the Lakes Line makes economic, financial and environmental sense.
“The plan will bring much-needed construction jobs in the shorter term and in the longer term attract new businesses, boost tourism and create a better environment for job creation.”
The minister said either he or fellow transport minister Simon Burns would be willing to attend a meeting to discuss the issue with Mr Farron and the campaigners.
Robert Talbot, of the Lakes Line Rail User Group, said electrifying the line was an ‘obvious add-on’ to the West Coast Main Line, whose power supply it could feed into.
He said. “As of next year, services from Manchester to Scotland will be an electric operation and then a couple of years after that, the Manchester to Blackpool route will be electrified.”
He said Lakes Line services which hooked up to Blackpool or Scotland trains, would no longer be compatible if the route stayed diesel-only, so direct trains to Manchester would be cut.
In a draft timetable for 2014, First TransPennine Express has proposed just one direct daily service from Windermere to Manchester.
Mr Farron said electrification would protect and even increase direct trains by making the line a ‘regional business hub’.
A Network Rail spokesman told the Gazette the Lakes Line was not currently listed as a priority.
But he added that the company would be happy to talk to campaigners.
“Electrification leads to a more cost effective, reliable and sustainable railway,” he said.
“Network Rail supports the further electrification of its network subject to a positive business case.
“Electrification of the Lake District Line is not in our current plans and was not in the High Level Output Specification setting out the Government’s priorities for the period 2014-2019.”
First TransPennine Express, which operates the line, said it would welcome any investment.