FRESH calls have been made by business leaders to resurrect ambitious proposals to create new road bridges across the Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary.

Entrepreneurs responding to a Cumbria Chamber of Commerce questionnaire have called for major investment in the county’s road and rail networks to boost productivity. They say the crossings would be “transformational” in helping achieve that goal.

Last year green energy company North West Energy Squared held a public consultation on £8.6bn plans for a 12-mile bridge.

The crossings would dramatically reduce journey times to Barrow and Millom from north Lancashire and would create a coastal highway along with a much-needed upgrade of the A595.

They would also generate electricity from tidal flows and could also carry high-voltage power lines to the proposed nuclear plant at Moorside, which would otherwise need a purpose-built tunnel under Morecambe Bay.

More than 141 businesses responded to the questionnaire which will shape its response to Transport for the North’s “crucially important” draft plan to improve road and rail infrastructure in the region.

It would also offer an alternative route to West Cumbria and the coastal highway would relieve pressure on the traffic clogged A66. Relatively remote Lake District valleys, such as Wasdale and Eskdale, would also be made more accessible to visitors.

The chamber is also demanding a major upgrade of the A595 and the coastal railway from Carlisle to Lancaster via Barrow.

It also wants the Government to deliver on priority road schemes such as the Kendal Northern Access Route and an Ulverston bypass.

Sixty-two per cent of the businesses that responded to the chamber’s survey said that traffic congestion was a major issue for Cumbrian enterprises.

Congestion blackspots identified include the A590 through Ulverston, Kendal town centre and the A66. The report says that the urban pinch points would be alleviated by the proposed Kendal Northern Access Route and an Ulverston bypass which the chamber sees as “key priorities.”

One business owner who responded said: “Traffic in Kendal is a problem, particularly when the M6 is shut. It once took one of our guests six hours to drive from Penrith to our B&B on the northern edge of Kendal.”

Another said that Ulverston is “blighted” by the A590 that passes through it and that a by-pass would be beneficial and another highlighted parking in Ambleside as a problem, pointing out that it can sometimes take employees 30 minutes to find a suitable spot.

Another of the blackspots identified that entrepreneurs want the strategic plan to address is the A591 between Grasmere and Windermere, along with the A5074 from Windermere to Bowness.

The A591 is the main access route through the Lake District National Park and the chamber report says that congestion on this “vital artery” degrades the visitor experience.

“Conventional improvements - such as an upgrade to dual carriageway - would not be appropriate in such a sensitive environment - therefore a different approach is needed,” says the report. “Options include improved public transport to encourage visitors to make less use of their cars, and consideration of Windermere Town Council’s proposal for a high quality park-and-ride scheme.”

The chamber has also repeated its call that HS2 trains from London should stop at Oxenholme, Penrith and Carlisle. The draft timetable has the high speed trains running non-stop between Preston and Glasgow or Edinburgh, forcing Cumbrian passengers to change at Preston.

Train services came in for criticism with calls for improved rolling stock and the direct service to Manchester Airport from Barrow to be made more frequent.

“Direct connections to Manchester reduce year on year,” said one respondent.

“The carriages also seem to be getting older stock - poorly equipped for the disabled, elderly, families or even cyclists.”

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said that Transport for the North’s Strategic Plan was not just another report that ‘will gather dust on a shelf in Whitehall’.

“To quote the old adage ‘time is money’,” he said. “Businesses are inevitably less productive if their staff or goods are stranded in traffic jams.”