Community Rail Partnership publishes positive study into future of The Bentham Line
The Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has just released the Executive Summary of its Bentham Line Development Study, recently completed by consultants Stantec and AllanRail.
It examines the possibilities over the next two decades to continue the healthy growth the line has experienced over the last twenty years; the number of journeys along the route having far more than doubled in that time.
The summary and the extensive full report on the study represent the culmination of six months research and analysis, backed up by valuable contributions from over forty stakeholders, and over 500 constructive responses from the general public, from both along and beyond the line, to the associated survey.
The study covers all aspects of the line from Leeds to Morecambe: the full 75-mile route itself; the local services between Lancaster and Morecambe; as well as the interaction with other routes including the Settle to Carlisle line, the Airedale electric service and connections to Cumbria and beyond.
This unique and innovative study, the first instigated by a Community Rail Partnership in Britain, places the community at the heart of future developments, a key objective highlighted in the Williams-Shapps Review of Rail (2021) and Department of Transport Community Rail Strategy (2018).
Gerald Townson, CRP chairman, said “I am delighted by the large number of stakeholders and individuals who have engaged with the consultants; the thorough and thoughtful approach adopted by Stantec and AllanRail and by the variety of options identified for future development.”
The executive summary highlights a number of key themes:
• the possibilities for the early decarbonisation with the use of battery technology, and low-cost electrification of the Lancaster to Morecambe section
• the opportunities to increase the service delivery with a longer operating day
• the importance of the line for both its connectional possibilities and new through and faster services.
• specific targeting relating to the demand for active leisure and tourism travel including the proposed Eden North Project in Morecambe.
All of this resulting in an overall improvement of customer experience and travel offer.
Stantec Project Director Stephen Canning stated “The Bentham Line Strategy was different as it involved undertaking a community-led and first principles review of the entire line from Heysham Port and Morecambe in the west to Leeds in the east. It was not focused on making the case for a single specific outcome, rather on defining how the Bentham Line can best meet the needs of the communities it serves and expand its appeal to visitors to Lancashire and Yorkshire. The final Executive Summary and Report are flexible documents that provide a basis both for pursuing and implementing short-term actions by the Leeds – Morecambe Community Rail Partnership and a community-based expression of aspirations to feed into wider railway industry planning.”
The Partnership gratefully acknowledges the grants made available from the Northern Trains’ Seed Corn Fund and the Community Rail Network’s Development Fund to enable this important piece of work to be undertaken.
This work carries a dedication to the late David Alder, a founding member of the CRP and Treasurer who instigated the study, and prepared the initial detailed tender documentation. This report reflects his continued determination to raise the profile of the line, to see the line recognised as an important lifeline for local communities as well as a scenic trans-Pennine route, to develop the line’s timetable and to secure a positive future for the route.
The CRP now looks forward to further substantial engagement with the rail industry, local councils and other stakeholders, to bring the aspirations evoked by the study to fruition.