Cumbria Chamber of Commerce has held “positive and constructive” talks with the Minister for HS2 to call for high-speed trains to stop in Cumbria.
Under current proposals, HS2 trains between London and Scotland will pass through the county without stopping, forcing passengers from Carlisle, Penrith and Oxenholme to change at Preston.
The Chamber says the loss of direct trains to the capital will damage businesses.
Julian Whittle, the Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, met HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani in London today to make the case for Cumbrian stops.
He said: “I told her that HS2 was a great opportunity for Cumbria that could, quite literally, pass us by.
“We’re a county with half a million people and 47m annual visitors, two national parks, two World Heritage sites and world-class industry with the like of Sellafield, BAE Systems, Pirelli, GSK and Innovia Films.
“It defies logic and common sense for HS2 trains to pass through without stopping.
“Forcing passengers to change at Preston is not only an inconvenience, especially for those with luggage, but relegates us to branch line status and sends out a message to potential investors that Cumbria is a backwater.
“The Minister listened intently. She was certainly on top of her brief and understood the issues. She was clearly impressed with the work the Chamber has done and asked us to put forward a strong business case for HS2 stops.
“More than that, she asked officials from the Department for Transport to work with the Chamber to help make that case. It was a positive and constructive meeting.”
The Government plans to build a 225mph high-speed line as far north Wigan, from where trains will continue over existing tracks to Glasgow or Edinburgh.
The Chamber has been making the case for Cumbrian stops for the last year and HS2 is now actively considering a stop in Carlisle where trains from London would be divided into separate portions for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Originally, it had planned to split trains at Carstairs in Scotland.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “We know it would harm Cumbria’s economy if HS2 trains don’t call here.
“When we consulted businesses on transport issues earlier this year, 65% told us it would damage them if we lose through trains to London.
“We are encouraged by the Minister’s comments and we will now work to put together a compelling business case for HS2 stops.”
He added: “HS2 is a £56bn project to boost the whole of the North but Cumbria won’t benefit if the trains don’t stop here. The Chamber will do everything in our power to make sure they do.
“It’s positive that the Minister is listening and that the Department for Transport is working with us to help make the case.”