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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Improved rail links are ‘vital’ to growth of Ulverston

BUSINESS owners and community leaders in Ulverston have said the electrification of the Furness Line is vital if the town is to continue to develop as a tourist hotspot.

Last week, the organisers of the Taste Cumbria food festival announced a new weekend-long event which event will be held in Ulverston in May.

The event is expected to attract visitors from across the North West and is the latest addition to the town’s already impressive list of annual events, such as the Dickensian Festival and the Lantern Procession.

But public figures have warned that improved rail links are needed if Ulverston is to thrive as a festival town.

Archie Workman, chairman of the Ulverston Business Alliance, said: “All the development seems to be focusing on the Manchester hub and I don’t understand why we’re not included in it.

“A lot of people from the Manchester area will want to come to this (the Taste Cumbria event) but they’ll have to change at Preston or Lancaster and that might put them off.

“We want direct trains and fast trains. Another thing I’ve picked up on during my time in Scotland is direct trains, trains that could leave on the hour without stopping everywhere in between.

“The festival is great news but this would be just another cog in helping Ulverston develop.”

Rail campaigners Furness Line Action Group have already expressed concerned that the route could be sidelined when improvements are made to the train network elsewhere in Cumbria.

In August last year, government transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin pledged £16m to electrify the railway between Windermere and Oxenholme by 2016.

The decision, which will enable faster and greener transport between Manchester and the Lake District, came after a long campaign by councillors and business owners who produced a detailed economic case for the improvement.

At the February meeting of Ulverston town council, members voted to contribute £500 to the cost of carrying out a study into the economic benefit of electrifying the Furness line.

Ulverston councillor Mark Wilson said the area must follow the example set by the Lakes campaign if they are to benefit from similar development.

He said: “Many businesses and organizations feel it is very important that we do have the electrification.

“We should support and contribute to the economic study to persuade the people that run the hub to go forward with electrification.”

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