£70 billion plan to boost transport links is an ‘opportunity for Cumbria’
A new plan to significantly boost transport links across the North has been welcomed by business leaders and politicians in Cumbria.
Transport for the North’s Strategic Transport Plan sets out a blueprint for around £70 billion-worth of investment in transport projects across the region over the next 30 years.
Among the projects mentioned in Cumbria are much-called for improvements to the A595 between Carlisle and Sellafield, further improvements to the A590, a bypass for Ulverston, the Kendal Northern Development Route, and support for the push for a HS2 stop in Carlisle.
Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said the 170-page blueprint was an opportunity for the county.
He said: “Transport for the North is a statutory body, appointed by the Government, so its strategy has real clout.
“It sets out the framework for evaluating which schemes will get backing.”
The chamber was one of several voice from the county to respond to the draft of the plan published last year, which Mr Johnston believes “sold Cumbria short”.
It surveyed more than 140 businesses in the county for their feedback on transport improvements. The were fed back to Transport for the North (TfN), who have now recognised two of the key issues raised by businesses.
Mr Johnston said: “It now recognises the importance of tourism to the regional economy, a point we made very forcibly.
“Secondly, it clearly identifies the benefits of using better transport links to expand travel-to-work areas.
“This is significant for Cumbria. We argued, for example, that improving the A595 between Carlisle and Sellafield would allow people in West Cumbria to take advantage of job opportunities in Carlisle, and vice versa.
“And we said that a tidal gateway across Morecambe Bay would be transformational for Barrow and Millom, bringing them within the same travel-to-work area as Lancaster. Schemes like these have a greater chance of attracting funding given the emphasis in the plan.”
Mr Johnston said recognition of the importance of tourism also strengthened the case for further work on the reopening the railway between Penrith and Keswick, while TfN offered “qualified support” for the campaign for HS2 stops in Cumbria, which is being led by the chamber.
In the plan, TFN pledges to “work with partners to ensure the benefits of HS2 continue to be realised when services continue north along the West Coast Main Line”, including the potential for a stop in Carlisle to split trains into Glasgow and Edinburgh portions.
The plan was also welcomed in the south of the county, with South Lakeland District Council’s cabinet member for the economy, councillor Graham Vincent.
TfN’s plan commits to improving dangerous pinch points areas on the A590 in the Swarthmoor, Ulverston and Greenodd areas before 2027.
Meanwhile, the Ulverston bypass and the Kendal Northern Development Route developments were also mentioned and could be delivered before 2050 if prioritised, although at present they have no ‘next steps’ assigned to the action list.
“I am encouraged that TfN are taking account of the level of private sector investment that hitherto seems to have been ignored in decision making,” said Coun Vincent, who also called for more investment around the Windermere area to support South Lakeland’s £1.24 billion tourism industry.
The inclusion of the Kendal Northern Development Route – which would see a new link created between the A6 and A591 to the north of the market town – was also praised by Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron.
“It would genuinely create new business opportunities while completely improving the traffic flow within town, making it a much safer and peaceful place to be,” he said.
“This is something that we’ve been lobbying for, for far too long.”
Damian Waters, the North West Regional Director at the CBI, said the TfN plan highlighted what “can be achieved when business and local political leaders work together in the best interests of their regions”.
“High quality and reliable infrastructure keeps the economy moving, drives growth, and has a tremendous impact on productivity,” he said.
“These plans will also create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, bringing new opportunities to communities.”