A new transport strategy could be the key to unlocking road and rail improvements across Cumbria, says the county’s Chamber of Commerce.
It has welcomed Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan, a 170-page blueprint for transport schemes across the north of England over the next 30 years.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “We think this could be a real opportunity.
Transport for the North is a statutory body, appointed by the Government, so its strategy has real clout. It sets out the framework for evaluating which schemes will get backing.
“When Transport for the North published a draft version of its strategy last year, we felt it sold Cumbria short.
“That prompted us to launch a survey on transport issues, completed by more than 140 Cumbrian businesses. We fed the results to Transport for the North and I’m pleased to say the final strategy takes on board two of our key messages.
“Firstly, it now recognises the importance of tourism to the regional economy, a point we made very forcibly.
“Secondly, it clearly identifies the benefits of using better transport links to expand travel-to-work areas.
“This is significant for Cumbria. We argued, for example, that improving the A595 between Carlisle and Sellafield would allow people in West Cumbria to take advantage of job opportunities in Carlisle, and vice versa.
“And we said that a tidal gateway across Morecambe Bay would be transformational for Barrow and Millom, bringing them within the same travel-to-work area as Lancaster.
“Schemes like these have a greater chance of attracting funding given the emphasis in the Strategic Transport Plan.”
He added: “The plan also talks about investments to improve access to key visitor attractions such as the Lake District.
“We think that strengthens the case to look seriously at reopening the railway between Penrith and Keswick.”
Transport for the North’s document offers qualified support for the Chamber’s campaign for HS2 stops in Cumbria.
It pledges to “work with partners to ensure the benefits of HS2 continue to be realised when services continue north along the West Coast Main Line” including the potential for a stop in Carlisle to split trains into Glasgow and Edinburgh portions.