THE Department for Transport has announced that the line to Windermere in the Lake District is set to be electrified, as part of wider electrification schemes in the north west of England.
The 16km branch connects at Oxenholme with the West Coast Main Line, where electrification was completed as long ago as 1974.
The scheme is expected to cost £16 million, and if it goes ahead electric trains will serve Kendal, Burneside and Staveley as well as Windermere itself by 2016, when through electric services are envisaged to and from Manchester.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: "This is a key line to one of the most important tourist areas in the UK and I believe the rail industry has a role in making sure more people can travel comfortably to enjoy the beautiful lakes.
“I recognise that strong rail links across the country are important drivers in our economic recovery at a national and regional level that is why we are pushing ahead with the biggest programmes of rail electrification ever.”
Councillor Keith Little, Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet member responsible for transport, said: "Electrification would bring this vital railway into the 21st century and would be great news for both rail users and the county’s economy. We have been working long and hard through the Lakes Line Community Rail Partnership to help secure this investment and welcome the Government’s announcement giving broad support to the project.
"This has been a joint lobbying effort from Cumbria involving the Lake Line Rail Users Group, local MPs and businesses, Cumbria Tourism, Network Rail and TransPennine Express, and I’d like to praise all their efforts which are now starting to pay dividends. The county council will be supporting Network Rail and TransPennine Express to put forward the strongest and most robust business case which underlines the compelling case for electrification of the line.”
So long as the business case is confirmed, Network Rail will be asked to carry out the work in conjunction with other rail electrification projects in the region. Network Rail will also develop detailed plans in conjunction with passenger train operators and local authorities.
The DfT added that 'the rail industry recognises the importance of the National Park environment and the value of visitors using the railway and these factors will be taken into account in the electrification plans and works'.
A new timetable will be considered as part of the new Northern and TransPennine franchises, both of which are set to start in February 2016.