A SHORTAGE of rail staff and frequent cancellations have led to a significant drop in usage on the Lakes Line, it is claimed.

Station usage statistics released this month show all of the branch stations recorded a loss, equating to 2.8 per cent, whereas Oxenholme achieved an increase a little below 10 per cent.

The largest drop in usage between March 2016 and March 2017 was recorded at Kendal Station, which saw 11,372 fewer passengers than the year before.

Stations at Burneside, Staveley and Windermere also all saw a drop in passenger numbers.

Robert Talbot, chairman of the Lakes Line Rail Users Group (LLRUG), said problems started when the franchise was taken over by Northern, and the service had reached the stage where it was now unreliable.

"If I was a betting man I would put good money on the current year being at least bad as the year that has just been reported on and it's almost certainly going to be worse," he said.

"Other forms of transport are more reliable for people. It's worrying."

Mr Talbot added that services regularly failed to show up on the line, and operators Northern needed to resolve the problem.

"They need to recruit more train crew, it's as simple as that," he said. "Around one in 10 trains don't turn up. If a teacher didn't turn up to school once a fortnight someone would have something to say about it and this is the same thing."

A spokesman for Northern said a multi-million pound modernisation scheme was under way to introduce improved trains, with up-to-date facilities, operating in the county.

“Our customers in Cumbria have faced a number of difficulties in recent months, but we are working to address these," said the spokesperson.

“We are also investing in our stations to provide customers with modern surroundings, improved waiting shelters and seating, and better ticket machines – offering a full range of discounts.

“We are committed to working with our partners across Cumbria to encourage people to travel to the area. We are also working with other train operators and Network Rail to improve performance, with localised plans in place.

“Through our modernisation programme we will do all we can to ensure rail users can get to and from the historic and picturesque stations along the Lakes Line.”