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Lake District’s flight of fancy, and another old chestnut

Roger Davies Kendal LA9
08 June 2018

Is it Christmas already? Well, it certainly seems to be old chestnut time in Brian Dalton’s part of Purley (Letters LTT 25 May). First off, well done Brian for pointing out the silliness of referring to cable cars as gondolas; in the US they are trams but let’s not further confuse things. Also thanks for the plug for the wonderful steam yacht Gondola built in 1859 by the Furness Railway and well worth a visit. But don’t for goodness sake go to Windermere, she sails on Coniston Water.

The Whinlatter cable car idea is bonkers (‘Gondola could replace car trips to Lake District attraction’ LTT 11 May). The Lake District National Park Authority suggests that a bus shuttle will take folks from Keswick to the cable car base station. Er, why not run the bus the whole way, avoiding the cost and environmental issues with the cable car that Brian raises? 

It is interesting in light of his comments about hillside drainage that when the A591 was rebuilt alongside Thirlmere (incidentally a reservoir not a lake) after Storm Desmond, the treeline was cut way back. Let’s see what happens in the next storm.

Now to Brian’s ‘old chestnut’. For goodness sake, how many times will the re-opening of the Penrith Keswick railway raise its tired, age-old head? 

There is a fantastic bus service that covers not only this section but carries on to Cockermouth and Workington just as the old railway did. It is run at no cost to the taxpayer by state-of-the-art buses and offers direct access to the many attractions along the route, not least the hugely popular Lakes Distillery at Bassenthwaite. 

No railway could ever achieve what the flexible, agile bus does. All Brian’s aims could be achieved tomorrow by the simple, cheap expedient of bunging the X4/5 bus times into the rail timetable.

The under-marketed PlusBus ticket already exists and, with today’s technology, through ticketing is perfectly possible. There is no point in wasting loads of public money re-opening an inferior railway when excellent public transport provision already exists. And, if HS2 occurs, it’ll ruin the train service to Penrith anyway.

A sort-of new chestnut is the Borders railway between Edinburgh and Tweedbank. What rail fans don’t say is that it might be good for visitors and getting to Edinburgh, but it is rubbish for local travel, a fact bemoaned by locals. It ruined the existing bus service and some provision only remains due to the entrepreneurial efforts of a bus company.

We have to shake off this obsession with grandiose vanity schemes and get real. Such things as the Penrith-Keswick railway and a cable car are not just old chestnuts but pie in the sky.

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