[S]outh Lakes MP Tim Farron has celebrated the return of trains back on the Lakes Line after a long campaign.
The line, which runs from Oxenholme to Windermere, had been suspended by Northern Rail for the past two weeks.
But after days of negotiating between Tim, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, trains are now back running on the line as of today.
The service, which will be running from 9.25am to 7pm every day, will be operated by Carnforth-based West Coast Railways and will run alongside the rail replacement buses that Northern are currently already operating.
Tim said: “This is a tremendous victory for local people.
“There has been a big community effort to get this off the ground and I’m so pleased that we finally have a reliable service back on the Lakes Line.
“But it shouldn’t have taken the efforts of local rail groups and my office staff to get a train up and running – it’s the responsibility of the Department for Transport and Northern and both have failed miserably.
“This is obviously only a short-term solution and it’s absolutely vital that Northern either get their act together or are stripped of both this line and the Furness Line so that an operator who actually wants to run trains can be put in charge of our local railways.”
Following calls from Transport for the North for reinstatement of a rail service between Oxenholme and Windermere as soon as possible, Northern has confirmed plans to get trains running again on the Lakes Line from the beginning of July. Rail services between Oxenholme and Windermere were replaced by bus services as part of Northern’s interim timetable, implemented on Monday 4 June 2018.
Northern intends to introduce a shuttle rail service on the line from Monday 2 July 2018. This will be a shuttle service of 12 services per day (including commuter services) operating between 6.30am and around 8pm with rail replacement buses to cover gaps in service for crew breaks.
Transport for the North has repeatedly impressed on Northern the need to restore a reliable rail service as soon as possible, both for Cumbrian residents and the many visitors who enjoy the Lake District.
John Cridland, Chairman of Transport for the North, said: “This is a step in the right direction. The Lakes Line is a vital connection for one of our most popular tourist areas and we tentatively welcome the move to restore rail services on this line. We see this as a vital first step in restoring reliable timetabled services to this line as soon as possible. We also welcome Northern’s announcement that it will be helping with a marketing and publicity campaign that makes it clear that the Lake District is open for business.
“We’ve been clear in our ask of Northern and are glad they have listened. We’ve been closely monitoring the replacement bus services, which have been broadly well-received, and Northern has been working hard to respond to the needs of its passengers during what has been a testing time.
“But there’s still work to be done to reassure the people of Cumbria. It’s not just a matter of getting trains running again. We know from direct feedback that passengers have experienced delays and cancellations on this line long before the introduction of a new timetable. What we don’t want to see is a return to an unreliable service.
“The Lake District is a jewel in the North’s crown and attracts visitors from around the world. It needs a stable rail service that people can depend on.”
Cllr Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s representative on the Transport for the North board, said: “The Transport for the North board were unanimous in calling for a rapid solution to the lack of rail services on the Lakes Line. My colleagues from across the North of England joined with me in recognising the detrimental impact of removing rail services from one of our key tourist areas, both for our local residents and for visitors to Cumbria.
“I am delighted that we now have a temporary rail based solution in place from Oxenholme to Windermere, as well as a longer-term plan for improvements to the whole Northern service.
“This follows extensive lobbying and the unswerving support of everyone who has been affected by the disruption on this line.
“What we have made clear throughout all of this is that Cumbria won’t just sit back and take this kind of disruption and that we will do all that we can to protect the interests of our residents and businesses alike.
“We have also been very clear with Northern that we are expecting the final introduction of the new timetable to result in a better service than we have had over the last 12 months.”
West Coast Railways is currently providing an interim shuttle service on this line from today and is running this as an Open Access Operator.