Reopened rail line could attract up to 480,000

Date: Friday 7th September 2007

passengers a year

passengers a year

SUPPORTERS of plans to reinstate the Keswick to Penrith railway line described as “tremendous” the findings of a new report which lends weight to their case.

The North West Regional Development Agency has published the results of a study undertaken on its behalf by JMP consultants during the past year.

Campaigners have worked tirelessly to promote the case for reopening the Keswick to Penrith line, which was shut down more than three decades ago. They claim that this transport link would provide a sustainable access into the heart of the Lake District as well as offering many social and economic benefits.

Among the key findings of the NWRDA report is the claim that the economic benefits of reinstating the line would outweigh the costs of construction and operation.

Passenger numbers on a reopened line were calculated to be in the region of 230,000 to 320,000 annually, possibly rising to around 480,000 if pressure continues to increase on road traffic in Lakeland.

The report stated that support for the line was far greater among tourism and regeneration bodies than among local authorities.

Economic benefits of the new line would amount to about £3.8 million per annum once it was established, with wider benefits through employment and visitor spending also.

The chairman of CKP Railways, the company formed to promote the scheme, Cedric Martindale, said the report was a good starting point.

“CKP Railways believes there is considerable scope to improve the financial picture as the study was based on maximum costs (based on recent data from Network Rail schemes) and minimum revenue calculations (fare income considerably less than current bus fares along the route),” said Mr. Martindale.

He added that the Government was not currently allocating funds for railway reopenings, but the report and follow up actions of the steering group would help to push the project forward independently.

He added: “The railway will not reopen tomorrow, but many of the necessary technical and documentary ‘building blocks’ are now in place.”

A statement on the CKP website states: “Keswick needs its railway more than ever before not just to bring in visitors, but to support local businesses and the community, to link its economy to complementary local, regional and national centres.

“Keswick, Penrith and Carlisle would all benefit from a new east-west rail service linking the North Lakes, North Cumbria, the North East and North West. The area cannot sustain more cars to develop further and provide economic and social opportunities for everyone, a modern rail link is the only logical way forward.”

Virtually all the extensive work done to date to push the reinstatement project forward has been funded through the sale of bonds for the railway.

Supporters of the line being reopened have suffered a number of setbacks to their campaign. In recent months their plans were dealt a blow by Eden District Council’s move to declare the line “abandoned”, rather than simply “disused”.

The original track bed has been compromised at more than one place over the years, with bridges removed, land sold off and caravan parks sited along the track.