ANGRY Cumbrian tourism chiefs have blasted Network Rail after it was confirmed West Coast Main Line services will be severely disrupted for a period which includes three peak holiday weekends.

The line will be closed in the Cheshire area from Saturday July 20 until Sunday August 4 inclusive, resulting in a host of cancellations and bus replacements for travellers attempting to reach destinations across the South Lakeland area.

Cumbria Tourism managing director Gill Haigh was joined by MP Tim Farron and local rail user groups in pointing out the timing of the work was a major blow for the county’s £2.9billion visitor economy.

“This news is a shock and totally unacceptable for tourism businesses," she said.

“Following last year’s disruption, we are already in the midst of a major £285,000 marketing campaign – funded by the rail industry - to rebuild people’s confidence in rail services and to inspire potential visitors to travel by train.

"This high profile campaign has already had to be delayed numerous times, due to strikes and then closures at London Euston over Easter and the May Bank Holidays.

"Following our complaints about the Easter disruption, we were assured that Network Rail would take our views on board and help mitigate against further disruption.

"However, this does not appear to be the case.

“Cumbria Tourism will now be writing to Network Rail, along with the Secretary of State for Transport, Transport for the North and our local MPs, urging them to look into this issue as a matter of urgency.”

And Rob Talbot of the Lakes line User Group echoed those concerns.

"Clearly this displays a cynical disregard for the travelling public," he said. "Neither Network Rail nor Virgin Trains appear to have a grasp of the importance of peak holiday travel, or of the visitor economy to the affected destinations.

"It is yet another severe blow to the tourist economy."

Mr Farron said he has written to the chief executive of Network Rail calling for an urgent rethink.

“After last summer’s titanic shambles, it’s frankly unbelievable that rail bosses have once again thrown the Lake District under the bus," said the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP.

“I was glad to work with Network Rail in finding a solution to the proposed closure over Easter when we arranged for a free special rail service on the Lakes Line.

“It’s time for them to show that same flexibility and go back to the drawing board and rethink these nonsensical plans.”