Passengers for Penrith should not be left stranded at Preston due to HS2!
That’s the message from the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, which is campaigning against the proposed route of the new HS2 rail link.
The project, which is expected to cost upwards of around £106 billion, will see a high-speed line built from London go as far north as Golborne Junction, near Wigan, from where HS2 trains will continue over existing tracks to Glasgow and Edinburgh.
However, as the plans stand, direct services from the capital will only serve Carlisle – forcing passengers for Penrith and Oxenholme to either take a cross-country service or else change at Preston.
Suzanne Caldwell, the chamber’s managing director, said: “We’ve been lobbying for several years for HS2 trains to observe the existing stopping pattern north of Preston.
“Our concern is that when these high-speed trains join the existing tracks to continue their journey to Scotland, they won’t stop in Cumbria as they currently do, and a large area of the county will lose its direct rail service to the capital.
“It would be self-defeating to force passengers between Carlisle and London to either change at Preston or add nearly 50 miles to their journey by having to go cross-county.”
The chamber argues that businesses in hospitality and tourism are some of those that could be the heaviest hit from losing a direct service to London.
“The onset of the COVID pandemic has been a big reset button and a significant number of skilled workers are looking to relocate, but having direct fast trains to Penrith and Oxenholme remains key to facilitating that movement and investment.
“Employers tell us that a lack of buses in Cumbria makes it harder for them to recruit staff while high fares deter people from travelling from areas of higher unemployment, such as Barrow, to take jobs elsewhere.”
Next week, HS2 Minister Andrew Stephenson MP will hold an hour-long online Q&A event, which is being billed as an opportunity for North West businesses to find out how they can get involved and join the HS2 supply chain, no matter what their size or sector.
To sign up for the event on June 29, go to https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hs2-how-can-north-west-businesses-get-involved-tickets-159413523139