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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Transport hub? All change for Whitehaven!

IT’S been a long road but there seems to light on the horizon for Whitehaven’s much talked-about transport interchange hub.

The plans to link up the town’s rail and bus network, in conjunction with a revamped Tesco store, seemed dead in the water when, just before Christmas, Cumbria County Council pulled the plug. It cited rising costs and doubts over how beneficial a rail/bus link-up would be as its reasons for scrapping its interchange plans for that particular site.

But now we can reveal that Copeland Borough Council, after being unhappy at the plans being shelved in the first place, is now working to re-establish the plans as a “priority regeneration project”.

Welcome news, indeed, for those who wish to see fewer cars on the road, and more joined-up thinking when it comes to public transport – plus it will brighten up that corner of the town.

The aim, in addition to improving rail and bus links, is to provide park-and-ride facilities linked with harbourside developments and the rest of the town.

A further boost for those keen on a more traffic-free environment comes with the news that the first batch of Sellafield workers is to be moved off site, thus reducing congestion along the A595 generally. It is disappointing that this first batch is moving to Allerdale, but hopes are high that in the near future around 900 workers will move from the site into Whitehaven’s Albion Square (and – who knows? – using a park-and-ride facility to get there).

The combination of better transport and an influx of Sellafield workers would offer a substantial boost for Whitehaven town centre. That is in the long-term however; more immediate is Whitehaven’s ongoing application to become a pilot town for business guru Mary Portas.

Becoming a ‘Portas Pilot’ town would secure Whitehaven a £100,000 grant, along with expert advice, to help it thrive once again.

By tomorrow, bidding towns are expected to provide a brief outline of what their key priorities are and those behind the bid have been out and about in town canvassing views.

So we have our collective fingers crossed for a successful bid, as a revitalised retail sector is absolutely crucial to Whitehaven’s future. Not least because, as we learn this week, Copeland is desperately lagging behind the rest of the country in terms of youth employment. A double whammy of a retail and transport boost could be just what the area needs.

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