A STUDY supporting the retention of direct train services from Barrow to Manchester Airport is to receive financial support from Cumbria County Council.

The county council’s Barrow Local Committee today agreed to contribute £3,000 towards the study, which will examine the business case for regular through trains, improving passenger services and upgrading the Furness line.

The Furness Line Community Rail Partnership, which includes the county council, is commissioning the study and will work with all stakeholders, including local authorities, train operating companies, businesses and the rail industry.

The study will cost £30,000 and so far a total of £11,000 has been pledged by the private sector, including contributions from TransPennine Express and Direct Rail Services.

Coun Kevin Hamilton, Chair of Barrow Local Committee, said: “There is a very real risk that the Furness line could be downgraded to a branch line with passengers having to change trains at Lancaster instead of direct services from Barrow to Manchester.

“Can you possibly imagine what a multi-national company or any potential future investor would think, if we became a forgotten area and a backwater for our rail services? It’s absolutely vital that we put forward a strong economic case for future investment in the Furness line when the new rail franchises start in 2016, and that’s why the local committee was delighted to support this important study.

"Everyone will benefit from having fast, good quality train services, including major local employers, the tourism industry and people who need to travel to work or to study.”