Cumbria Tourism has blasted Network Rail for its proposed 16-day shutdown of the West Coast Mainline during the height of the holiday season.

The organisation – which has more than 2,500 members across the county – branded the plans to close the major rail link to the county between July 20 and August 4 as nonsensical and urged a rethink.

Network Rail is set to close a key section of the line between Crewe and Preston to undertake “vital” upgrades to the track, cabling, overhead lines and signalling at the Acton Grange junction.

The junction – which sees more than 260 trains pass through it every day – provides a vital connection for trains running to Cumbria from London and Scotland, as well as trains travelling east to Manchester.

While many trains will be diverted via alternative routes, Network Rail says some passengers may have to change onto a different train or a bus for a section of their journey.

Cumbria Tourism’s managing director, Gill Haigh, said the timing of the work, which coincides with the start of the school summer holidays, was a “major blow” for the county’s £2.9billion visitor economy.

 “This news is a shock and totally unacceptable for tourism businesses,” she said.

“Following last year’s disruption, we are already in the midst of a major £285,000 marketing campaign – funded by the rail industry – to rebuild people’s confidence in rail services and to inspire potential visitors to travel by train.  

“This high-profile campaign has already had to be delayed numerous times, due to strikes and then closures at London Euston over Easter and the May Bank Holidays. Following our complaints about the Easter disruption, we were assured that Network Rail would take our views on board and help mitigate against further disruption. However, this does not appear to be the case. 

“Cumbria Tourism will now be writing to Network Rail, along with the Secretary of State for Transport, Transport for the North and our local MPs, urging them to look into this issue as a matter of urgency.”

Vice chairman of Cumbria Tourism, Jim Walker also stuck the boot into Network Rail, accusing the company of having “no regard for the impact on tourism”.

“The school summer holidays are the busiest time of year for tourism operators and following the previous issues with train services last summer, less frequent longer journeys are the last thing they need,” he added.