Home News Your verdict on Cumbria’s roads, trains, buses and planes

Your verdict on Cumbria’s roads, trains, buses and planes


Almost two-thirds of Cumbrian businesses say that traffic congestion is a problem, with the A591 through the Lake District and the A595 in West Cumbria the main culprits.

Those are two of the more predictable findings of our survey of transport issues, which also revealed an appetite for reopening the railway line between Penrith and Workington, a road crossing of Morecambe Bay, and flights from Carlisle Airport to Amsterdam Schipol.

The Chamber is gathering information from businesses to shape our response to Transport for the North’s consultation on its draft Strategic Transport Plan.

Julian Whittle, the Chamber’s Business Engagement Manager, said: “This document will be the blueprint for transport improvements and spending across the north of England for the next 30 years.

“It’s vital, therefore, that Cumbria’s needs are recognised.

“Our view of the draft is that it lacks detail and a list of prioritised schemes. We hope that omission will be rectified in the final version.”

To date, 128 businesses have completed our online survey. If you haven’t done so yet, click here to do it now. Here is a summary of the findings so far.

We asked: Is traffic congestion a problem for your business? If so, identify particular blackspots and explain how these affect you.

Congestion62% of respondents said congestion was a problem.
The road cited most often was the A591, particularly between Grasmere and Windermere, along with the A5074 from Windermere to Bowness.

One said: “My business is in Ambleside. If there is ever a hold up because of lights on the Windermere-Ambleside road it causes chaos.

“This leaves customers very cross at the additional journey time and does not help either me or my staff trying to get to or home from work. Something has to be done. The Lake District cannot cope with the traffic it currently has.”

A close second to the A591 was the A595 between Carlisle and Sellafield.

One respondent said: “I have a 23-mile commute from Seascale to Workington. Getting stuck behind slow-moving vehicles is a fact of life.

“If there is an accident I am often diverted, which can result in very lengthy delays. The worst delay meant that the journey took me just under two hours. As a result I am sometimes late opening with the potential of lost sales.”

Other blackspots identified were the A590 through Ulverston, the A66 in West Cumbria, the A69 in Carlisle, Kendal town centre and Carlisle city centre.

We asked: What are your priority road improvement schemes for Cumbria or elsewhere? Explain how these would benefit your business.

The A595 was top of the list for improvement, with calls to upgrade much of the route to dual carriageway and to build the Whitehaven Relief Road.

Carlisle Southern Link RoadNext was the A66, particularly between Penrith and West Cumbria – the Government has already committed to upgrading the A66 east of Penrith to dual carriageway all the way to the A1 at Scotch Corner.

There were calls to improve the A590, including a bypass for Ulverston, or to circumvent it entirely by building a road crossing of Morecambe Bay.

And there was support for the proposed Kendal Northern Access Route and the Carlisle Southern Link Road.

Potholes and poor road maintenance were constant complaints.

We asked: Do the cost of parking, lack of public parking spaces or inadequate public transport affect your business? If so, explain how.

60% cited these as a problem. Lack of parking was the most common complaint, particularly but not exclusively in the Central Lakes – Whitehaven has a shortage of spaces too.

The high cost of parking was cited frequently, along with calls for pay-on-departure car parks to encourage shoppers and visitors to stay longer.

One respondent said: “We have recently closed a shop in Keswick and one of the issues with Keswick is the rip-off parking charges and enforcement.”

Lack of bus services was the third most-raised issue, particularly in rural areas and in the evenings everywhere.

One said: “Lack of public transport means that staff recruitment becomes more difficult for access to employment opportunities.”

We asked: HS2 proposes that its high-speed trains from London will pass through Cumbria without stopping, forcing passengers to change at Preston. Would this affect your business, and if so how?

HS261% said this would be damaging, 35% said it wouldn’t and 4% weren’t sure.
One said: “Why bypass the second largest English tourist destination outside of London? Madness.”

Another: “Not stopping in Cumbria is crazy. A big inconvenience and hugely disruptive on journeys to London.” And another: “This will be an absolute disaster for Cumbria.”

We asked: Are you content with the current rail service in Cumbria? If not, explain how any deficiencies affect your business.

A hefty 75% of respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the rail service.

Reliability was the main issue, with complaints about trains arriving late or not at all – particularly on the Coastal Line from Carlisle to Lancaster via Barrow.

The Coastal Line appears to be a real bugbear, with calls for faster trains, more trains, a clock-face timetable with trains departing at the same minutes past each hour, and more modern rolling stock.

One respondent said: “The trains are completely unreliable, there are a huge number of cancellations at short notice and regularly late trains. The stock is awful and way behind the times.

“We do business in 34 countries and have international visitors every week. We cannot rely on the train to transport visitors as it is so unreliable.”

Elsewhere, there were calls for more trains to Windermere but, perhaps surprisingly, only a handful of complaints about the cost of rail travel.

We asked: What are your priorities for improving rail services in Cumbria? Explain how these would benefit your business.

The top suggestion was reopening the line from Penrith to Keswick, with several also calling for its reinstatement beyond Keswick to Workington.

There were calls to improve time keeping and reliability, replace older rolling stock, provide more trains and faster trains on the Coastal Line, provide more through trains to Manchester Airport, and electrify the Lancaster-Barrow and Oxenholme-Windermere lines.

We asked: Scheduled passenger flights from Carlisle Lake District Airport are due to begin in June, initially to London Southend, Belfast and Dublin. Do you anticipate using any of these services and if so which?

Aer Lingus plane landing61% plan to use at least one of these routes, which will encourage Carlisle Airport’s operator Stobart Group.

39% said they would fly to London Southend, 29% to Dublin (some for onward connections to the US) and 18% to Belfast.

We asked: What, if any, other routes from Carlisle Airport would you like to see?

A number of respondents suggested “Europe” without naming a specific destination but, of those that did specify, Amsterdam Schipol was the number one choice, well ahead of Paris in second place.

One said: “A link to Amsterdam, the closest single international hub would be transformational.”

Within the UK, there were calls for links to other London Airports – City was mentioned as being preferable to Southend.

We asked: Have you any comments to make on Transport for the North’s draft Strategic Transport plan?

Unsurprisingly, few had the time to wade through TfN’s 96-page report but those that did were in the main critical.

A repeated complaint was that the Lake District is barely mentioned.

Respondents also said the report lacked specifics and appeared to be a biased towards major cities such as Manchester.

Three pointed out that there was no consideration of Northern Tidal Power Gateways’ proposal for crossings of Morecambe Bay and the Duddon Estuary.

We asked: Are there any other transport issues you would like to raise?

Lack of public transport and high fares were the main issues mentioned, along with inadequacy of provision for cyclists.

Morecambe Bay crossingA handful of respondents called for a Morecambe Bay crossing.

Julian added: “As with our consultation on migrant labour last year, the survey has confirmed things that we expected and thrown up a few surprises.

“The issues of traffic congestion on the A591 and A595 are well documented, but it’s interesting to read the unprompted comments about a Morecambe Bay crossing and re-opening the Penrith-Workington railway.

“Our next step is to set up a working group of businesses to look at these issues in detail before we draw up our response to TfN’s consultation.”

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce


  1. It an absolute no brainer that if, if West Cumbria is to fulfill its ambition to be considered Britain’s Energy Coast and be the go to place for nuclear expertise then people will need to get here! By Road the A595 is the worst followed closely by the A66 from Workington to Penrith. This road was originally designed as a dual carriageway and was downgraded under pressure from Friends of the Lake District, While not to distract from the Lake District I often wonder how different West Cumbria might be today if transport links desperately needed even then had not been sabotaged by a well meaning but misguided minority. The Ports of Whitehaven Workington and Maryport would have had a fresh lease of life and who knows what important links could have been made.
    If this road had been completed to plan West cumbria could and would have become the Westlakes not just a hopeful name change.
    The West Cumbria coastal rail service is about as useful for servicing west cumbria as the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway without the reliability and enthusiasm.
    No plan for new nuclear power stations should be considered without the added benefits of Transport network not just fit to service that industry but all the greater possibilities of industry and tourism the west coast has to offer. When such plans are drawn up the government of the time will need to be strong enough to draw up plans that are futuristic and robust and rigorous enough to withstand the challenges of the World Heritage Park.
    The French/Italians/Swiss and Austrians. Norwegians Swedish and Danes have been building bridges tunnels and roadworks in some of the most scenic places on earth and do it with brilliance and elan and if we can’t do it we should get them in. I don’t really care who builds it just so long as it gets built quickly.

  2. It is pointless promoting Cumbria as an energy coast with the terrible road links we have particularly between Whitehaven and Barrow, there is a definite need for a bridge over the Duddon Estuary and Morecambe Bay this would alleviate much of the traffic that travels through Whicham Valley and Broughton and along that dreaded route from Broughton to Barrow via Kirkby, there are already plans to tunnel under Morecambe Bay if the west coast nuclear plant goes ahead this is to take power cables along with service vehicles, why not build a bridge that could carry the cables and generate tidal power, people would pay a reasonable rate to use the bridge over both Estuaries and there’s no need for the bridges to be too high as there is no chance of large ships up either Estuary, we all talk about cost, this could be self funding generating immediate jobs in the area (don’t give the work to a European company) and promote the area for the future for many tears to come, of course the road from Millom up through the west coast would have to be upgraded but this should be easily done with local contractors.

  3. I hope that any crossings of Morecambe Bay and the Duddon estuary, were they to be developed, would embrace rail as well as road infrastructure. Moving more freight by rail must be a future priority; that will not happen if both rail passengers and freight are left with the long circuitous route that exists today.


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