A major step forward has been taken today to support the growth of freight and passenger services on the Cumbrian Coastal Railway Line.
The Government has approved a business case, securing up to £7.5m of Government funding for the next stage of development of upgrades to the line. This is supported by an £835,000 contribution from the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership. The funding will be used to enable Network Rail to further define required improvements that would then support the development of a future case to fund improvements on the ground.
The upgrade will make more space for freight trains on the line so they can run smoothly alongside improved passenger services – both essential to meet the needs of businesses and communities in West Cumbria and enhancing connectivity with the south of the county and the wider rail network. The upgrade of the line will also support continued economic growth, the tourism sector and the creation of new jobs.
Working closely with a number of partners, including Transport for the North (TfN) and Network Rail, the business case has been developed by Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Cumbria County Council.
The next stage of the project will involve Network Rail defining the upgrades required for the line and producing a business case for funding these upgrades. This stage will take approximately two years to complete.
Jim Jackson, Deputy Chair of Cumbria LEP (CLEP), said: “This is excellent news for Cumbria. The Cumbrian Coastal rail line upgrade is urgently needed in order to improve the capacity of the line and to ensure that businesses can use it to deliver their growth ambitions and to support their workforces to make better use of public transport.
“The decision by the Government to fund the further development of the business case takes us a step further forward towards the line being upgraded. That is why the LEP is delighted to invest up to £835,000 in the development of the case.
“This is the successful outcome of over two years of hard work. My thanks to the many people who contributed and engaged so positively to get to this point, including West Cumbria Mining, Sellafield, and the NDA. Importantly, Network Rail, the DfT and the Cumbria County Council team – without their support this would not have happened.”
Barry White, Chief Executive of Transport for the North, said: “This is really great news for Cumbria. It will deliver real change for the communities along this section of coast and help unlock new jobs and economic growth – not only for the county, but as part of the bigger picture of improving the freight and passenger links between the North’s two energy coasts. Our purpose is to support the North’s communities to secure the investment they deserve and enhance links between our industries – this initiative will do just that.”
Roisin Nelson, sponsor at Network Rail, said: “As part of Network Rail’s open for business programme, we’re committed to working with businesses and the rail industry to support the growth of freight and passenger services on the strategically important Cumbrian coastal line.”
“Our study will identify the potential upgrades needed to allow growth for freight traffic and better connect tourist areas which is vital to the local economy.”
Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “I am delighted at this news, which is a major step forward. A huge amount of collaborative work went into reaching to this point and I’m grateful to all the organisations and agencies involved.
“This line requires significant improvements – the upgraded route will support economic growth and provide new opportunities for our local communities as well as the millions of visitors who come to enjoy Cumbria every year.”