BUSINESS leaders have been giving their reaction to a rail boost coming to Barrow and south Cumbria.
The Department for Transport has issued an “invitation to tender” detailing the requirements companies must meet to win the right to run the Furness Line from April 2016 until the mid-2020s. From next year, the Furness Line will fall exclusively under the Northern franchise and Barrow, Dalton and Ulverston will no longer be served by Transpennine Express trains.
Under this shake-up, a new timetable will be introduced from December 2017 which will see 19 trains a day between Barrow and Lancaster. Of these, 11 will continue directly to Preston with eight of those carrying on directly to Manchester Airport.
Another boost means a Sunday service will run between Barrow and Carlisle from December 2017.
Reacting to the announcement, Phil Collier, chairman of the Furness branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “A regular, reliable rail link from Barrow to Manchester and beyond is essential. With the huge levels of business investment coming in to this area over the next 20 years or so it is absolutely vital that we have an appropriate transport infrastructure in place."
"So, this turnaround to increase the number of direct trains to Manchester Airport is fantastic news for local businesses and for the area as a whole.”
George Beveridge, Chairman of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said “The rail network is one of the key engines of economic growth. This is has been a one-off opportunity to shape our rail services for the next decade."
“We have all recognised how important these new franchises will be in helping to unlock and support the billions of pounds worth of investment and economic growth coming to Cumbria in the next few years. We asked the government for more funding, change, ambition and flexibility. These new tenders go a long way to delivering that.”