A RALLYING cry has gone out for Furness companies to join the campaign to save south Cumbrian rail services.

Under new rail timetables – in effect from December 2013-May 2014 – the number of through services from Barrow and other stations on the Furness line to Manchester Airport has decreased from six to five.

In the other direction, the number of direct services from the airport to Barrow has now dropped from nine to seven.

The changes have not reduced the number of services on the line but mean that passengers for Manchester Airport will now have to change at Lancaster or Preston.

And campaigners say there will be further reductions in May.

The Cumbria Better Connected campaign, which was instigated by Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, also has the backing of Manchester Airport Group and Ulverston-based Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK).

Now other Furness businesses are being asked to back the crusade ahead of a conference at Barrow Town Hall on January 17.

Mr Woodcock said: “We need to focus on getting the recent changes reversed and campaign for the longer term electrification of the line to safeguard through trains and connections.”

Peter Robinson, chairman of the Furness Line Community Rail partnership, added: “Now is a crucial time to influence decisions on the future of the railway in Furness and south Cumbria.

“For this relatively isolated part of the North West an efficient rail service providing high quality links with the regional capital and airport is vital to the success of the local community and the community it supports.”

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport Group said: “Passengers and businesses in Cumbria deserve good access to all parts of the UK, including access to major international gateways such as Manchester Airport.”