RAIL bosses in south Cumbria have reacted with scepticism to new electrification plans for the Furness line.

Network Rail have advanced environmentally-friendly plans to overhaul Cumbria’s rail infrastructure by converting a number of train links within the county - including the Furness route.

The plans form part of a broader national drive to decarbonise Britain’s rail system by ‘going electric’.

But Robert Parker, of the Furness Line Action Group, says he ‘would be very surprised if anything along those lines happens within the next decade’.

Mr Parker said he believes that ‘Furness would be the last of all the lines in the county to be switched to electric’ and said that ‘if they have any sense they’d get the Lakes line done first’.

Battery-powered units are planned to operate the Lakes line, which runs from Oxenholme to Windermere, while other more peripheral routes in Cumbria are earmarked for electric conversion.

South Lakes community leaders argue electrification of links in the area should take first priority in order to provide more efficient, low carbon access to the area - which in turn would help sustain Cumbria’s tourism-reliant economy.

South Lakes MP, Tim Farron said the new proposals were ‘really welcome’, but believes the Lakes line should not be overlooked.

“This is a key piece of investment that I along with many other local rail campaigners have been calling for, for a very long time,” he said.

“However, it is disappointing – and simply doesn’t make sense - that the plans for electrification do not extend to the Lakes Line where the suggestion is for battery-powered trains to run on the line instead.”

The Lakes line was almost realised during the coalition years before eventually being pulled.

Mr Parker said: “If you electrify the Barrow line and not the Lakes line, then that complicates Northern’s operations considerably.

“It would involve using different units - it also doesn’t help that there are three tunnels along the Furness line.

“The Lakes line should have been done in the 1960s but it was considered too expensive then and they didn’t go through with it.

“I suspect the Furness line would be the last line of any to be electrified in Cumbria. And, if they’ve got any sense, they’d get the Lakes line done first.

“Politicians keep making all sorts of promises in relation to this - they’ve been talking about it for decades now. But they never keep them.”