Director rejects MP’s claims that CKP rail scheme is “pie in sky”

Date: Saturday 6th November 2004

PENRITH and the Border MP David Maclean has gone steaming into a row with the company responsible for trying to reopen the Keswick to Penrith railway which closed more than 30 years ago.

Mr. Maclean said the project is “pie in the sky” and the £60 million it could cost to revive the rail link would be better spent on improving the west coast line and the A66 road.

And he has accused CKP Railways of exaggerating claims about Government backing for the project, saying he is pleased that the Transport Minister has “slapped down” the rail company. Mr. Maclean said the Ministry was planning to write to the railway company saying its public statement was distorted and had given the impression that the Environmental Impact Study had received approval, which was not the case.

The MP said the Department of Transport had simply given an opinion based on information to be included in the environmental statement. “CKP Railways gave the impression that it had Government approval for the first stage of the plan but it has got no approval whatsoever and there would have to be a public inquiry before the Government would even consider this project further,” said Mr. Maclean.

He said local people had contacted him because they were concerned that the project was “unworkable pie in the sky”.

However, CKP director Cedric Martindale said Mr. Maclean’s comments were out of date and his concerns were addressed several weeks ago and the project was continuing on course.

Mr. Martindale, the Carlisle-based rail engineer who has been the driving force behind the project, said Mr. Maclean had been kept up to date on progress, but remained sceptical about the measure of local backing.

He said concerns were dealt with in correspondence with the Department of Transport last month and in September when the Department asked for an assurance that CKP Railways would not imply it had reached a view on the merits of the scheme overall.

Mr. Martindale said no further comment or criticism had followed since his explanation that the railway was a community-driven project for which local people were providing much of the funding. He said a recent consultant’s report showed the scheme had real support and made positive comments in terms of national and local transport aims.