Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Fight to improve West Coast Mainline route not finished yet

Railway campaigners say they will maintain pressure to improve links on Cumbria’s West Coast Mainline.

The call was made at a meeting to celebrate more than two decades of campaigning for improvements on the line.

The general council of West Coast Rail 250, a pressure group calling for work on the main line, met in the city – vowing not to give up its calls to have services along Cumbria’s main link to the capital boosted.

It met for the first time in November 1992 after the Government announced it would not be upgrading this stretch of railway.

Carlisle city and Cumbria county councils agreed to jointly campaign for improvements. The campaign grew from that and it now stretches the entire length of the line – from London to Glasgow.

Campaign co-ordinator Tony Page said: “The meeting was two-fold. It was an opportunity to look back on what we have been doing and also look at the future of the railway.”

The big issue for the future of the West Coast Mainline is to make sure it benefits from the high speed railway (HS2) project currently planned to link London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

Mr Page said the group would lobby for the project to be extended to the full length of the line, which he described as the country’s most important.

“We had a lively discussion around high speed,” he added.

The meeting also saw the delegates agree to push for good service from the west coast franchise holders Virgin Trains.

This firm had been set to lose the business to First Group but the deal collapsed because of errors at the Department of Transport.

Mr Page said that there had been dramatic improvements to the line since 1992, highlighting the tilting Pendolino trains now used on it. However, he added: “There is still a lot of work to be done. You just need to look at 100-year-old signal boxes and other infrastructure that needs to be replaced.”

Joe Hendry, the city council’s leader, spoke to the delegates.

He said: “Let it be clear that the cause of West Coast Mainline is not only your cause, it is Carlisle’s cause too.”

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