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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

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Ash cloud flights chaos brings Cumbria tourist boom

Cumbria could be poised to cash-in on the aftermath of the ash cloud chaos this bank holiday weekend.

Hundreds of people from the county have been marooned abroad or had their travel plans hit by the fallout of the Icelandic volcano-caused air crisis.

Britons stranded overseas after Europe’s skies reopened are still facing the prospect of being stuck for days longer.

But there are signs that the disruption could have a positive knock-on for Cumbria – with indications that more people are choosing to stay in this country this May Day bank holiday weekend.

Virgin Trains, which runs services along the West Coast Mainline through the county, has revealed the Lake District is one of its top destinations for the spring break.

The firm has also reported a surge in bookings for the weekend – up nearly 300 per cent on one day.

Virgin says advance bookings for its services are up by 166 per cent on the same holiday last year.

And bosses are braced for their busiest May Day since it started running West Coast services in 1997.

Communications manager Jim Rowe said: “The May bank holiday is always a popular travel period.

“This long weekend, however, is certainly set to be most welcome with people trying to enjoy the beginning of summer.”

Friday is set to be the busiest day on the West Coast line – with bookings up 80 per cent on last year.

Trains running to and through Cumbria are also expected to be busy on Monday, with advance bookings up 280 per cent.

Virgin also say that bookings of their cheapest train fares have risen by 182 per cent, compared to this time last year.

Tourism chiefs in Cumbria last week said the county was benefiting from what was then the unprecedented lockdown of UK airspace as more and more holidaymakers were forced to change their plans.

Hotels reported a surge in last-minute reservations as people look to make the most of their time off by staying in the country.

Although Cumbria Tourism said that about 93 per cent of the county’s holidaymakers come from the UK, there were also foreign visitors who have found themselves stranded.

Nationally, travel chiefs at the weekend bemoaned “a significant lack of air capacity” to beat the backlog of travellers waiting to get back after the volcanic ash brought European flights into meltdown.

With flights expected to run normally today, Abta had aimed to have repatriated more than 100,000 British passengers by the end of the weekend.

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