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.
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.
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.
Read more in Issue 243 of HR – on sale now!Enjoy more Heritage Railway reading in the four-weekly magazine. Click here to subscribe.