A MAJOR step forward has been taken this week to support freight and passenger services on the Cumbrian Coastal Railway Line.

Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Cumbria County Council have supported the submission of a business case by Network Rail to the Department of Transport to secure funding for the next stage of development of upgrades to the line.

The project is known as the Energy Coast Rail Upgrade and its delivery would see more space for freight and passenger trains and improve the reliability of line more broadly – both essential to support inward investment and to meet the needs of businesses and communities along the length of the line and the wider rail network.

The business case has been developed by Network Rail with support from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership and Cumbria County Council.

Angela Jones, Cumbria County Council’s Executive Director for Economy and Infrastructure, said: “Enhancing our rail infrastructure is a huge priority that will drive economic growth and provide opportunities for new business in our region. A huge amount of collaborative work went into reaching to this point and I’m grateful to all the organisations and agencies involved.

“This line requires significant improvements - the upgraded route will support our local communities and business sector, as well as the millions of visitors who come to enjoy Cumbria every year.”

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of the Cumbria LEP, added: “The Energy Security Strategy makes clear the important role that nuclear will play in UK energy generation going forward and West Cumbria is ideally placed to benefit from this having considerable skills, expertise and consented sites.

“However, in order to deliver this ambition it is essential that we have effective rail and road infrastructure and the Energy Coast Rail Upgrade is an absolute priority in order to achieve this. This upgrade will encourage further investment, support our existing businesses to move goods and better connect our people to jobs and leisure opportunities”.

Philippa Britton, principal route sponsor for Network Rail’s North West route, said: “Not only does the Cumbrian Coast Line play an important role in connecting communities to places of work and leisure, but it also serves the logistic needs of major energy industries located in West Cumbria.

“This is why we’re working in partnership with Cumbria LEP and Cumbria County Council to explore opportunities to grow the line’s capabilities, so it can support potential growth in the energy sector and improvements to passenger train services.”

If the business case is approved further design work would be undertaken with a full business case developed the approval of which would see the delivery of works.

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