A GROUP of liberal democrats have written to the secretary of state for transport supporting a campaign to gain community community rail partnership status.

Penrith and the Border Liberal Democrats wrote to Grant Shapps pledging their support for the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line's campaign.

This would give the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line the right to be consulted by Northern on any changes to their services or timetables on the Settle to Carlisle line.

In his litter, Adrian Waite, chair of Penrith and the Border Liberal Democrat wrote: The Settle-Carlisle Line is important to the community and economy of Kirkby Stephen, Appleby, Langwathby, Lazonby, Armathwaite and other parts of the Penrith & the Border constituency as a way for people to access work, education, training and leisure facilities; a link for local businesses; and as a way for tourists to access the area. It will be of critical importance in re-starting the local economy when the coronavirus lockdowns come to an end.

“However, recent experience, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic, has exposed weaknesses in the way the line is managed. Several problems have arisen especially with timetabling, some of which have yet to be resolved. There are also strategic issues to consider such as the need for integrated transport. It appears that weaknesses in the present arrangements for communications between Northern (the train operator) and local communities is part of the problem and that improving these communications must be part of the solution.

“You will be aware that the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line wish to gain Community Rail Partnership status to ensure that they and local communities are fully consulted on future developments and plans. We support them in this ambition and urge you to grant them Community Rail Partnership status.

“We would also ask you to urge the operator, Northern Rail, to engage in constructive consultation with the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line about improving the timetable and service levels on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line to the benefit of the communities and travelling public.”

The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line is the largest rail user and support group in the country. They have more than 3,000 members and transformed themselves from a campaigning group to a rail support group when the line was reprieved in 1989. Upon receiving the line, Michael Portillo, the then transport minister, wrote to them issuing a challenge that they should do exactly that.

That has been the situation for some years during which the organisation has committed many volunteer hours and committed financially to the upkeep of stations and other causes through member’s subscriptions and legacies.

Councillor Deb Holden, leader of the Liberal-Democrat Group at Eden District Council, added that: “We are more than happy to support the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle line. It would be good if they could have more influence on the time tabling of the trains through consultation.”