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Sunday, 26 October 2014

Rail electrification hopes given boost

AN MP has secured a major step forward in the campaign to electrify the Lake District train line.

Tim Farron used a Parliamentary question session to secure a meeting with transport minister Norman Baker, to discuss plans to electrify the line between Oxenholme and Windermere.

The future of the line has been under scrutiny after it was announced last year that the number of direct services from Windermere to Manchester Airport would be reduced from four services to one a day from 2014.

During the debate, the Westmorland and Lonsdale MP said Network Rail had described the process of electrifying the line as a “straightforward job”.

Mr Baker agreed that either he, or fellow transport ministerSimon Burns, would attend a meeting with Mr Farron, rail operator First TransPennine Express and local rail users.

Mr Farron said: “The electrification of the Lakes Line makes economic, financial and environmental sense.

“The plan will bring much-needed construction jobs in the shorter-term and, in the longer-term, attract new businesses, boost tourism and create a better environment for job creation.

“Each organisation (FTPE and Network Rail) has told me they are supportive and keen to make this happen. This meeting offers us a chance to do that.

“Electrification of the line would also help to ensure the direct link to Manchester Airport is protected as it shows us as a regional hub; a place to visit and do business.”

Mr Farron said that in a previous meeting with Nick Donovan, FTPE managing director, he secured the company’s support for the proposals, a factor which the Department for Transport has indicated would be crucial in any decision.

A First TransPennine Express spokesman said: “We welcome any potential future investment in the railway.

“We look forward to contributing to future discussions and investigations about the potential electrification of the Windermere line.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Network Rail supports the further electrification of its network, subject to a positive business case.

“Electrification of the Oxenholme to Windermere line is not in our current plans and was not in the High Level Output Specification, setting out the government’s priorities for the period 2014-2019.

“However, we would be happy to participate in further discussions to examine the case for electrification of this route.”

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