AROUND 1970 the Windermere branch line was reduced to what it now is by British Rail’s so-called ‘rationalisation’.

Before that, Windermere had four platforms, a goods yard and the branch two tracks throughout. The timetable had through trains to London, Manchester and other places.

The piece in The Westmorland Gazette by Tim Farron recently, quite rightly, highlighted the need for a lot of what was taken out by BR to be put back!

Windermere station is inadequate and Staveley station is far from access friendly! Burneside would probably be better resited and the level crossing on the Windermere side of the station needs gates to eliminate the severe speed restriction currently in place.

Kendal station should be manned and could usefully become part of an interchange with a relocated bus station and a car park. Oxenholme is looking tired and has facilities that could be greatly improved, including parking.

A passing loop (say in the Staveley area), plus an additional platform at Windermere, would give the opportunity to run a more frequent service. Connections at Oxenholme can be a lottery, especially if the main line trains are running late. A 30-minute interval service would minimise this.

The line from Oxenholme to Manchester Airport is now entirely electrified, leaving just the 10 miles or so to Windermere without wires. One of your recent correspondents (Letters, November 29, 'No case for electrification') suggested that there is no case for electrification. Far from it!

It would be far more efficient for electric trains to run throughout, rather than diesels having to be provided for such a short distance. As a lot of work has already been done at Oxenholme to allow electrification of the branch - it does not make sense not to finish things off. All could be done as part of the capacity enhancement.

The same correspondent seemed to think that hydrogen trains were a panacea to the branch lines problems. They are an intriguing prospect, but in reality they are only at the unproven, experimental stage and it is unlikely that any will be seen in this area any time soon.

More than 18 million people visited South Lakes during 2017, the vast majority by road. There is huge potential for a much-improved branch line to carry a bigger proportion of this number, while alleviating some of the frequent congestion and attendant pollution that comes with this amount of traffic, both locally and on the motorway.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Manchester, went to China recently to encourage more Chinese to visit the UK via the city's airport. Hopefully they will want to visit the Lakes. Many already do come that way and arrive in the Lakes by train. It is to be hoped that the mayor’s visit will be successful, giving even more reason for a much improved railway.

Cumbria Tourism is booming and has aspirations to ‘raise the profile of Cumbria as a world class destination and increase the value of tourism to the local economy’. A first class railway connection can play its part in achieving that goal and some serious work is needed to rid ourselves of the current unsatisfactory offering.

Dave Grime


Lakes Line Rail User Group (Committee member)