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Saturday, 22 November 2014

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Report demands drastic overhaul to make Furness Line trains ‘fit for purpose’

A MAJOR report is calling for immediate action to put right ‘failings’ on the Furness railway line. Reporter JOEL JACKSON investigates

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PLATFORM FOR DISCUSSION Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock at Barrow train station. The MP is supporting the findings of The Furness Line Study HARRY ATKINSON REF: 50044878B003

“IMMEDIATE action” is needed to address “very significant failings” on the Furness Line, an independent report has claimed.

The Furness Line Study, a 90-page report by The Railway Consultancy Ltd, concludes that the line is not fit to meet present demand, much less to cope with the expected population and employment booms in Barrow and Ulverston in the coming years.

The report has been published as part of a public consultation over changes to local rail services in 2016.

The study, which cost £30,000 to complete, was commissioned at a public meeting in Barrow Town Hall in January and funded by local councils, businesses and rail operators.

Among the recommendations, the document calls for the “urgent” return of the two-hourly Manchester Airport service and additional trains during the tourist season.

The report also suggests a rationalised timetable and highlights the inadequate number of trains between Barrow and Lancaster on weekday mornings, which prevents residents from commuting by train.

Other suggestions include better bus links between Barrow train station, the town centre and Furness General Hospital as well as shuttle buses for Ulverston’s bigger employers.

The study also calls for train operators to co-operate with the area’s biggest businesses to make sure arrivals and departures coincide with shift patterns.

The report states: “Timetable analysis shows some very significant failings in the level of service provided.

“Put simply, the current service is not fit for purpose, through failing frequency, capacity and through service requirements.

“We have been appalled to discover that significant existing markets are not being addressed, leading to major losses of traffic.

“The shortfall in service provision is so great here that there is an overwhelming case for immediate action.”

Tim Owen, acting chairman of the Furness Line Community Rail Partnership said: “The report has highlighted the fact that perhaps the timetable has ossified in the last 25 years.

“Times have changed and demand has changed and the report has done a good job saying how things could be changed to reflect that.”

In addition to short-term improvements, the report also provides a vision for the line up until 2030.

It takes into account the expansion of BAE in Barrow, GSK in Ulverston and the proposed nuclear power station at Moorside.

The report states: “Significant increases in local population and employment are expected; industrial developments for major employers at Ulverston will lead to a 16 per cent increase in jobs in the next few years and those people will need some way of getting to work.

“As demand continues to rise, the service will need to be split in order to meet market needs. In the longer-term, a regular hourly local service calling at all stations needs to be supplemented by faster regional services to Manchester Airport.”

With the Lakes Line, between Oxenholme to Windermere, scheduled to be electrified in 2016, the study suggests that an increase in the number of trains on the Furness line would justify the eventual electrification by 2030. It adds: “Virgin Trains should be asked to investigate operation of through-London services from Barrow for possible introduction on an initial two to three year ‘use it or lose it’ basis.”

Barrow and Furness MP John Woodcock, who first called for the report to be commissioned, said: “We now have professional and independent confirmation that there are serious shortcomings in the Furness Line service and that urgent action is needed to improve matters so that it doesn’t act as a brake on local economic growth.

“The report rightly calls for a consistent, reliable service with high-quality trains, with timetables better suited to local needs and, crucially, for the through-service to Manchester to be retained and improved.

“I have made this case strongly to ministers and have done so again in my response to the re-franchising consultation.

“A good train service is vital to maximising the economic benefits of the Olympic-scale industrial investment coming to Furness, as well as growing the local visitor economy, this study is a very valuable piece of ammunition in the fight to obtain the rail links Furness needs.”

Have your say

How come we have suddenly been given the oldest, tattiest and most uncomfortable trains available on the Barrow to Carlisle line in recent weeks? Is this a sign of what is to come if Northern Rail takes over?
I feel really sorry for the regular commuters of the line now, which I used to be - the quality of their daily lives has no doubt taken a turn for the worse with those trains.
Plus, what about the impression it gives to the many tourists that use that line? The West Coast line surely has to be one of the most beautiful in the country and it is being serviced by the worst rail stock in the country. What's that all about?
Plus they have the cheek to put prices up, so are expecting us to pay more for an inferior service.
Give us back the standard of rail travel we are used to and that a stunning county like Cumbria warrants!!

Posted by Concerned rail user on 19 August 2014 at 10:48

Transpennine run a decent service but don't realise the effect on passengers slow and sporadic services have! They only need to improve timetable and train length whereas northern who should be left with the short stopping services need to improve massively with better and faster trains that can deal with demand. There is a lot of money in the Furness line and this needs to be realised and the whole service improved.

Posted by Daniel Duckworth on 18 August 2014 at 22:57

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