Chamber lobbies to protect through trains to London

Cumbria Chamber of Commerce is lobbying the new operator for the West Coast Main Line to ensure the county retains its through train service to London.

As things stand, proposed HS2 services from London to Scotland will operate non-stop through Cumbria forcing passengers to change at Preston.

The Chamber has written to First Trenitalia, which has just been awarded the new West Coast Partnership franchise, arguing for HS2 trains to observe the existing stopping pattern.

This sees every train stop at Carlisle and many call at Penrith and Oxenholme.

Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is a danger that Cumbria is left with a second-class rail service.

“An enforced change at Preston would deter passengers and send the wrong message to potential inward investors.

“Last year we lobbied the Minister for HS2, Nus Ghani, and submitted a detailed business case for Cumbrian stops to HS2. We’ve now sent this document to First Trenitalia.”

In a covering letter, the Chamber says omitting Cumbrian stops would be “bizarre” given the importance of the county as a visitor destination and its strong manufacturing sector.

First Trenitalia is a consortium of the UK bus and rail operator First Group and the state-owned Italian company Trenitalia.

They take over the West Coast Main Line from Virgin on December 8 and will operate HS2 services from 2026.

Although the new high-speed line isn’t projected to go any further north than Wigan, HS2 trains will continue over existing tracks to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Rob added: “Our understanding is that the franchisee will have the final say on where these services stop.

“We’re doing our utmost to persuade First Trenitalia that it’s in their interests to ensure there isn’t any diminution of the rail service to Cumbria.

“We’ve also invited them to send a representative to explain  their plans for the franchise to Cumbrian businesses. We’ll be announcing details of that shortly.”

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce