PLANS to reinstate axed railways to encourage business and tourism in Cumbria have taken a step forward.

Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and the Border, together with MP for Workington Mark Jenkinson, Copeland’s Trudy Harrison and Carlisle’s John Stevenson submitted a bid to reinstate the Keswick to Penrith railway line.

Now the Department for Transport has confirmed it will work with partners including Allerdale Council and CKP Railway Ltd to develop the application to enable access to funding.

Dr Hudson said: “I am delighted that our application for restoring the Keswick to Penrith railway line has received a positive response from the Department of Transport and can be explored further.

“This project will be great for Cumbria, providing jobs and opening up links that will really help in the economic development of our county.

“Joining areas by improved physical connectivity will be good for our area and be a shot in the arm for our local economy, not least our important tourist sector which has been hit so hard by the coronavirus pandemic.”

And Mr Jenkinson confirmed the MPs are also looking at ways to move forward plans to reinstate the Silloth to Carlisle railway.

He said: “We’re hoping to submit an expression of interest to a future round; the Silloth project is still embryonic.”

Mr Jenkinson added that while a business case for the Keswick to Penrith line was almost ready, with Allerdale Council leading the project, the Silloth to Carlisle plans still lacked feasibility studies.

He said: “There are many ways we can develop railway links, it’s about thinking outside the box. We know Silloth is a major tourist attraction, especially for people north of the border and it’s about developing that.”

The bid for the Keswick to Railway line, part of the Government’s Ideas Fund, is one of 10 in the country to be successful in moving to the next stage.

Submitted by Allerdale Council and CKP Railway Ltd with the four MPs, the project received support from the Cumbrian LEP, Cumbria Tourism and Eden Council.

Mrs Harrison said: “It is great to see the progression of the Keswick to Penrith railway submission.

"The reopening of this line would provide an exciting opportunity for our county and connecting these two towns by public transport would make a world of difference for both local people and tourists, allowing for a link between two beautiful areas of Cumbria.”

John Stevenson, MP for Carlisle, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for Cumbria.

“It would see significant investment into the area and help support the tourist industry as well as improve connectivity between two important towns in our county.”

Mr Jenkinson continued: “The response from Department for Transport is very positive and I look forward to their input.

“I want to improve infrastructure within our county and that includes all forms of transport.

“The rail network is a large part of this - supporting residents and tourists.

“Better rail links will vastly improve Cumbria’s tourism offer and create more options to travel to work and school.”

Keswick railway station was shut in 1972, six years after the Beeching report brought the closure of the Cockermouth to Keswick line, which was part of the route to Penrith.