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Furore Over Plans To Cut Rail Service

RAIL users are building up a head ofsteam about timetable proposals which could dramatically reduce the numberof passengers travelling from a South Lakelandstation.

Members of the Lakes Line Action Group claimthe Virgin Trains Cross Country draft timetable for 2002 provides a"totally unacceptable level of service for SouthLakeland".

LLAG vice-chairman Robert Talbot said theplan would result in "fewer seats on fewer trains to fewerplaces."

He also claimed it would take passengerslonger to reach cross country destinations, because of having to change atstations like Birmingham New Street, and the poorconnections.

The timetable also proposes a reduction ofthe 12 daily Cross Country trains currently calling at Oxenholme to justeight, every two hours.

With new, smaller trains, groupsecretary Malcolm Conway estimated a reduction in available seats frommore than 4,000 a day to just 2,000.

LLAG, which feelsthe new timetable is inconvenient and will turn rail passengers to theircars, has written to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transportand the Regions John Prescott and Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Collinsabout their concerns.

"Before the time table becomesset in stone we want to be listened to," said MrTalbot.

"This is a significant reduction in services toand from an important part of the country."

But VirginTrains was adamant that the new timetable would not cause problems, andthat there would be sufficient seats for localpassengers.

From 2002, long-distance travellers atCarlisle and Preston are expected to take advantage of new, faster trainsinstead of using rural services.

West Coast 250 - arail user pressure group - say the proposed two-hourly service comparesunfavourably with the East Coast main line's three trains every twohours.

But Virgin stated that the new West Coasttimetable was likely to include two additional hourly services betweenPreston and Carlisle, stopping at Oxenholme.

"Bycombining the West Coast and Cross Country services, there will be a trainevery hour each way," stressed a Virgin spokesman.

Cutsto existing direct services to the South West and Glasgow mean passengerswill have to change trains.

But Virgin insisted thatjourneys would not be significantly longer because of the new trains,adding that passengers would have more alternative journeys to moredestinations.

John Moorhouse, of the North West Rail Users Consultative Committee, saidthat people needed both timetables to see the whole picture, but wasconfident of a 50 per cent increase in journeys toLondon.

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