Many people have been in touch to raise their concerns regarding the Northern Rail service for the Cumbrian Coast Line. What has been described is a frustration felt by many commuters and passengers throughout our area. I use the service several times a week and have previously campaigned for improvements to the line, both in Parliament and before I was elected as an MP.
During the general election, I outlined my six-point plan for Copeland. One of these points was to campaign and actively strive for better road, rail, and digital connectivity. This includes desired improvements to rolling stock, stations, and the doubling of certain stretches of track.
With regards to fares, I believe the recently announced upcoming improvements will have a considerable impact on the quality of service we receive on the Cumbrian Coast Line and therefore the cost of this investment justifies the small increase in the area. On average, 97p of every £1 of a passenger’s fare goes back into the railway. Improvements being made include:
- 22 Sunday services operating south of Whitehaven to Barrow from May 2018.
- We will receive completely refurbished rolling stock, including on-board WiFi and device charging, to be completed by December 2019.
- The less reliable and ageing diesel Class 37 locomotives will hence be removed from regular service on the Cumbrian Coast Line.
- Every station on the line (excluding Nethertown and Braystones, due to low footfall) will be fitted with new electronic ticket machines.
- Northern Rail are also looking into communicating with more Community Rail Groups in order to maintain stations with flower beds etc.
These Sunday services will be the first to run south of Whitehaven for over thirty years, providing a crucial form of transport for the people of south Copeland, helping and residents to travel the full breadth of our area.
I share the concerns many have expressed, and have made them known to representatives from Northern Rail in a recent meeting, I have also shared similar concerns with the Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport who has visited the constituency on two separate occasions, and also declared a commitment on consulting the public around the construction of a Whitehaven Relief Road. I also commissioned and received a report about the reliability of regular service on the Cumbrian Coast Line for the past 5 years. This will allow me to present a compelling case for any further improvements that might need to be made to rolling stock and timetables.
This Government is investing in the biggest rail modernisation programme for over a century to improve services for passengers – providing faster and better trains with more seats. As outlined above, we in Copeland will benefit from this investment and see improvements to both our services and to the trains themselves.