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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

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We’ll reopen Cumbrian rail lines if elected – Lib Dems

Liberal Democrats have vowed to reopen two Cumbrian railway lines if the party comes to power.

Rail bridge photo
The Waverley rail line used to cross the River Eden

The pledge came with Prime Minister Gordon Brown expected to go to the Queen today

The long abandoned Penrith to Keswick line could be among those reopened under the Lib Dem scheme, as could the Waverley Route between Carlisle and Galashiels.

Other lines which could be included in the nationwide expansion plans include the electrification of lines from Manchester to Liverpool and Leeds and Preston.

Unveiling the policy, party transport spokesman Norman Baker said yesterday

“High speed rail is hugely important, but it is only part of the 21st-century rail network Britain needs. Our plans will reopen thousands of miles of track across the country and make our railway great again.”

The Penrith to Keswick route was mothballed in March 1972 – local groups have been campaigning for it to be reopened for several years.

The Waverley railway line, which ran from Carlisle to Edinburgh, was closed 41 years ago after the infamous Beeching report in 1963. Moves to reopen part of it have already started north of the border.

The first steam train ran on the original Waverley route in 1849 and the last train ran in 1969.

The route passed through Longtown, Canonbie and Newcastleton on its way to the Scottish capital.

The network overhaul would be paid for with nearly £3 billion switched from cash earmarked for road works such as motorway widening, said Mr Baker.

Councils and transport authorities could bid for money from a new Rail Expansion Fund to improve, reopen or establish services.

The two Cumbrian lines have featured in rail pledges from the three major parties in the past three years.

Last year, Government ministers announced that they would set aside money to allow local authorities to run new rail services by reinstating mothballed lines, building new stations or converting freight lines to passenger travel.

Under the scheme, town halls or passenger transport authorities seeking the go-ahead for new rail services would no longer have to prove they will attract sufficient passengers long into the future.

Instead, they would only have to prove financial viability for three years, after which the new service would be taken into a wider franchise agreement.

However, the size of the fund was not revealed and the scheme was not scheduled to begin until 2014.

In 2007, the Conservatives joined forces with environmental group Transport 2000 to call for several disused rail lines in the north west, including the Penrith to Keswick and Waverley route, to be reopened.

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