Councillors and campaigners from around Lake Windermere are calling for Cumbria County chiefs to reverse the recent fares hikes that have seen prices double for foot and cycle users of the Cumbria Council-run Windermere Ferry service, introduced just before the start of the tourist season and without any consultation with residents, businesses and tourist organisations.
Cllr Matt Brereton, a Conservative who represents High Furness on Cumbria County Council, is calling on the Cumbria County administration in Carlisle to reverse the fares hike, and has started a petition to gather support for his campaign.
Cllr Brereton says: “Like many people I was dismayed when the Council announced these fare rises, especially after the past few years of disastrous mismanagement that have seen the botched attempt to bring in on-shore ticketing and the pitiful response to last summer’s fire on board the Ferry, which wiped out the whole summer season for many business on the west side of the lake.
“The message that has come out loud and clear from beleaguered users of the ferry service is that the Council has to consult and communicate much better with local people and this latest fares increase is just another slap in the face for some very angry and frustrated people on either side of the lake who use the service frequently.
“Last autumn the Cabinet member in charge of the Ferry agreed to the reintroduction of the Windermere Ferry Advisory Group, which is still in the process of being reconstituted more than six months on. Any change to fares should be brought before this group and the business case presented as to why it makes sense to double them at this time.
“From what I have been told the move is purely budgetary and makes no sense from an operational point of view. Simply to say that foot and cycle fares haven’t been increased for ten years, without explaining what the point of increasing them is now, is exceedingly disappointing and demonstrates a dismal lack of strategic vision.
“What’s more, surely we should be encouraging people to travel for business or leisure without using their cars. What does it say about the County Council’s approach to tackling air pollution, roads congestion and the chronic shortage of car parking in this wonderful part of the Lake District that they are seeking to unduly penalise pedestrians and cyclists in this way?
“It’s now cheaper for a group of cyclists to bring their bikes over on the Ferry in a car or van than it is to cycle on board! How does that make sense? Once again it demonstrates a breath-taking lack of understanding on the part of the Lib-Dem and Labour administration in Carlisle as to just what an asset the Windermere Ferry is to people in our area and the many thousands of tourist users.”
Councillor Brereton is backed in his campaign by fellow Conservatives on both Cumbria County and South Lakeland District Councils, including Cllr James Airey, Cllr Ben Berry, Cllr Anne Hall, Cllr Roger Bingham and Cllr Kevin Holmes, as well as representatives of local town and parish councils, businesses, tourist organisations and campaigners, and the call to review the controversial fares hike also chimes with calls from local cycling and environmental groups.
There is now an online petition set-up for people to sign in support of Cllr Brereton’s call to urgently reverse the fares increase, allowing the Windermere Ferry Advisory Group to be set up and for proper consultation to take place with residents, businesses and town and parish councils, as well as major tourism and conservation bodies including the National Trust and Cumbria Tourism. The petition can be signed online at www.westmorlandconservatives.org.uk