Heritage operator saves the day for Windermere branch


MARKET-leading heritage steam and diesel charter operator, West Coast Railways, stepped into the breach after problem-hit operator Northern Rail cancelled all of its services on the Oxenholme to Windermere branch, delivering an unexpected bonus of a loco-hauled shuttle service.

Passengers across the north of England have endured thousands of cancellations and delays on services run by the Arriva UK subsidiary since a new timetable was introduced in May. Northern has laid the blame for the disruption at the door of delayed engineering works and a shortage of trained drivers.

West Coast to the rescue! Class 37 No 37669 (with Class 57 No. 57316 dead on the rear) at Windermere on June 18, heading the 2Z04 11.30am Windermere to Oxenholme service. TIM ROGERS

Carnforth-based West Coast Railways, which last year ran the Swanage Railway’s award-winning trial ‘real train’ service from the resort to Wareham using heritage diesels in top-and-tail mode, stepped in and has provided trains on the 10 mile Lakes Line, after none had run for a fortnight with the promised replacement bus service being labelled inadequate.

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The initiative came from former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, the MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who joined forces with a local passenger group to facilitate West Coast being brought in; the Department for Transport will meet the £5500 daily cost, with passengers travelling free. WCR’s managing director Pat Marshall frequently uses the branch, so also has a personal interest.

A three-coach trial service was run by West Coast on Sunday, June 17, and was said to have been full.

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