Government asked to back Cumbrian coastal rail upgrade

An early-stage business case has been submitted to the Department for Transport to provide £9m for improvements on Cumbria’s coastal railway line, which will help to support major projects in the region including Nugen’s Moorside nuclear plant.

The Cumbrian Rail Programme Board, led by the area’s local enterprise partnership and businesses including Nugen, Sellafield, the National Grid, and Network Rail, has submitted its business case to the DfT, arguing the line would bring “massive economic benefits” to Cumbria.

Cumbria is expected to host £60bn of investment over the next 10 years, focussed on major projects near the coast including Moorside; a new mine at Whitehaven; and the low-level waste repository at Drigg.

Combined, these development will need to move around 172m tonnes of freight on the railways, but the current network does not have the capacity to support this without “significant” improvements.

To support this, the business case is asking for £9m from Government to progress plans for the project, with a further £1m invested from Growth Deal funding to move it forward.

Jim Jackson, board member of the LEP, said it was “not feasible” for local businesses to pay for all of the upgrades, and said it was “important that the work on the line is properly planned and co-ordinated so it can be carried out in the most cost-effective way”.

“West Cumbria badly needs an upgraded coastal rail line so that it will be able to cope with future business demand – that’s important right now because there are businesses making decisions on major developments who need to know they will have the right rail capacity,” he said.

“The £60 billion of major investments planned for Cumbria will bring massive economic benefits to the area and the wider UK.”

The LEP has argued the upgrades would directly support the creation of nearly 18,500 jobs in West Cumbria, along with 5,600 jobs in the rest of the UK; over £10bn of exports from mining; and both nuclear new-build at Moorside and the ongoing decommissioning at Sellafield.

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