Step forward for Penrith-Keswick rail plan

Date: Saturday 7th August 2004

RAIL campaigner Cedric Martindale has reported a major step forward in his bid to bring back a rail line between Keswick and Penrith.

The Department of Transport has formally approved the first stage of an “environmental impact assessment” submitted for the proposed Keswick to Penrith line.

The report was compiled by Corus Rail Consultancy and involved other specialists. The Department of Transport sought opinions on the report from a number of other public bodies before confirming its position.

This brings Mr. Martindale’s dream much closer. He sees the line as “a model for a new generation of community railways”.

In accepting this work, the department asked that CKP Railways plc continues to consult with English Nature to ensure that all relevant ecological issues are covered, and to pay particular attention to road traffic issues around the proposed stations.

The “Scoping Report” was submitted in April after consultation with a number of statutory bodies including local authorities and conservation organisations.

Comments were also sought from a number of other organisations representing local interests, to ensure that the development of the project is understood by as many people as possible. About 60 groups were approached.

MAJOR SUCCESS

Mr. Martindale said: “The relatively fast response from the Government, without placing any specific demands or restrictions on CKP, is seen as a major success. Everybody involved sees this as recognition of the professionalism of the team and the thoroughness of the work already done.”

A number of detailed studies will be needed to fill the gaps in available information about the environment along the route. These will now be pursued as quickly as possible.

A program has already been drawn up to carry out road traffic monitoring this summer to identify the peak loadings on the road system around the line. Relieving road congestion and parking problems would be one of the major aims of the reinstated railway.

Mr. Martindale said that more than 800 bonds had now been issued, raising more than £300,000. CKP Railways plc is still looking for other sources of funding.

The National Lottery has been explored several times, but the only large grants available now are for “heritage” projects. Mr. Martindale said: “As this is a project to build a modern railway, the various lottery distribution bodies have declined to support it.”

The Penrith-Keswick rail link closed nearly 30 years ago. The company set up to fight for its reinstatement say it can be a modern railway and train service “designed to meet future local and regional needs”.