The future of Cumbria’s rail network is, again, being questioned following a detailed report calling on the government to increase funding for Northern transport, while slamming the cancellation of HS2's northern leg.

Following the news, which has been a cause of disappointment for many, and deemed smart management of priorities by a smaller number, government advisers said more investment is needed in the UK’s transport infrastructure.

UK infrastructure, which incorporates the nation’s heating and water networks, as well as public transport, needs a big cash injection as it is all in dire need of renewal, according to a report published on October 18 by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC).

The report said that cars and roads alone won’t be enough to keep transport moving, and more investment in public transport is needed.

Several facets of the 222-page report, which took a panel of experts over two years to compile, are likely to be seen as controversial by the government.

These include public transport investment being accompanied by restrictions on car access in England’s largest cities to alleviate congestion, and the view in the report that the HS2 decision was ‘deeply disappointing’ and ‘leaves a major gap in the UK’s rail strategy’, with Sir John Armitt, NIC chair, saying it would result in an ‘overload’ of the West Coast Mainline (from Scotland to London via Cumbria and Lancashire), or encourage more people and freight on to the roads.

Another one of the NIC’s core recommendations is improving underperforming parts of the national road network and developing a new comprehensive and long-term rail plan which ‘will bring productivity benefits to city regions across the North and the Midlands’.

This report has been received very well by Transport for the North, a major advisory group to the government.

Its chair, Lord McLoughlin, said of the report: “We welcome this assessment from the National Infrastructure Commission and especially its recognition of the key role improved connectivity has to play in unlocking the potential of the North’s city regions and towns.

“The evidence is clear, investing in the North’s transport system will make a difference for both residents and businesses, connecting people and places with opportunities and services.

“To realise this transformation, we must deliver on agreed priorities, and make it easier to do so.

“This updated assessment by the National Infrastructure Commission gives confidence to our communities and will encourage the private sector to continue to invest in the North’s success.

“In this way, we are to deliver economic growth that is sustainable and inclusive for the longer term to transform the North.”

However, the government and Conservatives may argue that they are not ignoring this fact, and are making careful plans for the long-term future of the UK, looking at smaller, more localised transport investment proposals like Liverpool to Scunthorpe and being more viable as a result of pushing back costly announcements from over a decade ago such as HS2, and more recently, the planned ban on new petrol car sales.


Prime minister Rishi Sunak promised to 'upgrade' the energy coast train line linking Carlisle, Workington and Barrow in his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference, saying that 'every penny' of the planned £36billion leg would be spent on key infrastructure. 

Carlisle MP John Stevenson is the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Conservative MPs who have called for the 'Charles' line which would see high-speed rail delivered from Manchester to Hull and the prime minister confirmed that the route would also see an upgrade. 

The Energy Coast Rail upgrade would see more space for freight and passenger trains and improve the reliability of the line more broadly – both essential to support inward investment and to meet the needs of businesses and communities along the length of the line and the wider rail network.

However, RMT general secretary Mick Lynch cast doubts on the line upgrade, saying he doesn’t believe any of the projects announced by the government will happen.

“I don’t believe any of it,”

“When the Tories say something, a day later it normally collapses under scrutiny, and you've got to read the small print.

“None of this is going to happen under this government, none of it is even committed to.

“They’re going to deliver trams that already exist in Manchester, so I don't believe any of it, I don't think anyone believes any of it.

“I think they're just fiddling the figures and fiddling the rhetoric to just get them through conferences whenever they're under scrutiny.

“So, the creation of new railways or reinvestment and enhancements of railways is the same as the 40 hospitals that we're never going to see - it's in the same category of fantasy politics.”

At the time of the announcement, Cumberland Council said they were ‘pleased’ to hear of the government’s plans for the energy coast line but slammed the government for the ‘genuinely disappointing’ decision to scrap HS2 north of Birmingham.

The plans have been dismissed by Labour as a ‘back of a fag packet plan’ and shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh said the prime minister "should take responsibility for the sheer chaos, incompetence and desperation" surrounding the announcement.