Travel by train or by bus from principal locations in north and west Cumbria to major destinations outside of Cumbria takes a long time, but for those who cannot drive because they are elderly or who have learning or physical disabilities that makes it impossible to pass their driving tests they have no other choice for getting around. Taxis are beyond the price range of most people.
Today we look at the costs and travel times from Carlisle, the main population centre in the north of Cumbria, and from Whitehaven, the main population centre in west Cumbria.
From Carlisle, travel times and costs of a Day Return to these North East cities are as follows:
Newcastle: Train journey takes one hour and 30 minutes and the return journey booked in advance is £16.20.
Newcastle (by bus): Takes a little longer and costs £10 for an adult North East Explorer ticket which would enable you to get to Newcastle and back.
Sunderland: By train it is two hours and ten minutes and the cost of a return booked in advance is £20.10 for off-peak travel. You could also travel by bus, changing at Newcastle on a £10 North East Explorer ticket but the journey would be more uncomfortable and would take nearer three hours to get there.
Middlesbrough: The journey by train would take two hours and 45 minutes and would involve a change at Newcastle. The return trip would cost £29.70 if booked in advance. The trip could be done by bus on a North East Explorer ticket costing £10 but it would take you almost four hours to get there if you travelled that way.
Berwick-upon-Tweed: By train from Carlisle the journey would take two hours and 45 minutes, involving a change at Newcastle and the cost of a return ticket is £43.50. Travelling on the bus with a £10 Explorer ticket would take over four hours. You would have to do the return journey of similar duration and spend most of your day cramped up on a bus!
With the possible exception of Newcastle, the main urban centres of North East England are not easy to get to from Carlisle and (unless you want to spend your day cramped up on buses) return travel to these destinations is generally north of £20. Even by train , travel to major locations other than Newcastle takes over two hours.
Let us now draw our attention to travel from Carlisle to principal North West cities (outside Cumbria, of course):
Preston: The return journey by train costs just £19.90 if booked in advance and the travel time from Carlisle to Preston is just one hour and ten minutes on most journeys.
Preston (by bus): This journey can be done using a North West Explorer ticket costing £11 though the journey would take more than six hours involving changes at Penrith, Keswick and Lancaster. You would not be able to return to Carlisle the same day.
Blackpool: The journey by train is one hour and 53 minutes, provided the change over at Preston is fairly quick. The cost of a return ticket if booked in advance is just £24.
Manchester: Travel by train from Carlisle to the centre of Manchester, usually involving a change at Preston (but not always) costs £53.40 for a return ticket bought in advance. The journey time is one hour and 53 minutes with a quick connection at Preston.
Manchester (by coach): The journey by National Express takes two hours and 45 minutes from Carlisle but the cost is just £38.40 for a return if booked in advance. The chief drawback of this route is that the bus goes/returns at inconvenient times of the day.
Chester: This trip is surprisingly quick by train, given the distance from Carlisle. It takes just two hours and five minutes but a return ticket, booked in advance is still pricy at £61.05.
Travel by train from Carlisle to these principal North West cities is markedly faster than to the North East destinations on the whole. Overall they are just a few quid more expensive for the return tickets. In terms of ease of access the North West cities are easier to get to from Carlisle. This is to be expected since Carlisle is on the West Coast Mainline.
There are very cheap ways of travelling to both North West and North East cities from Carlisle that involve long bus journeys and (usually) two or more changes.
Let us now look at travel from west Cumbria to these North East and North West cities. These are public transport journeys from Whitehaven:
Newcastle: The train journey takes two hours and 50 minutes with a prompt connection at Carlisle. The cost, when booked in advance is £20.40. It would be little cheaper travelling by bus and the journey would take over three and a half hours.
Sunderland: The train journey from Whitehaven would take three hours and twenty minutes with a prompt connection at Carlisle and Newcastle. The return ticket, booked in advance would be £32.60. The bus journeys would cost less but take longer, to the extent that getting from Whitehaven to Sunderland and back on the same day might be a tall order.
Middlesbrough: This train journey would take four hours and two minutes, provided connections at Carlisle were quick and you don’t need to change at Newcastle. This journey is also pricy at £51.30 booked in advance.
As can be seen, travel to the North East from west Cumbria is harder, costs more and takes a good deal longer. Even the trip to Newcastle, the nearest major city in the North East, takes almost three hours and costs over £20. People don’t usually commit to such long journeys just to go out for the day or go shopping.
Let us now look at travel from Whitehaven to the cities in the North West outside of Cumbria:
Preston: Travel by train from Whitehaven to Preston takes two hours and 45 minutes with a prompt connection at Carlisle. The cost of a return, booked in advance, comes to £22.
Blackpool: This journey from Whitehaven would take three hours and 37 minutes at best, involving (as it does) connections at Carlisle and Preston. Provided it is booked in advance the cost would be £24.
Manchester: This train journey would take three hours and 31 minutes and the cheapest return (booked in advance) is £52.30. The journey would involve a change of train at Carlisle and at Preston.
Travel from Whitehaven to the cities of Lancashire is about the same as to principle North East cities and fractionally less expensive overall. These North West locations are still a long way and it takes a long time to get to them.
Travel by public transport makes an even more compelling case that northern Cumbria is in the “wrong” Region with regards to what is proported to be local by the BBC. However, it also makes the case that the main urban areas of the North West are, perhaps, just as irrelevant to folk living in Carlisle and west Cumbria and that what is actually needed is more resources put into regional programming for Cumbria and also Lancashire.
The facts and figures for travel from Cumbria to other northern locations also says a lot about the state of transport infrastructure in the area. The train services on the West Coast Mainline and across the Pennines suffer from a lack of investment, competition with other rail service providers and the cost of rail travel is nothing short of disgusting. For example, a return trip of the distance from Carlisle to Preston would cost the region of £7 in Switzerland or Germany, where rail travel is subsidised by the Government.
The road infrastructure is also appalling. The entire West Coast of North West England needs it’s own motorway and fast rail-line to connect Chester/Dee Estuary, the Wirral, Liverpool, Blackpool, Barrow in Furness, Whitehaven, Workington and (via a tunnel under the Solway Firth and Scottish Southern uplands) connect to Glasgow and up the western side of Scotland. Pro-tem this would provide construction work for all these tun-down and industrially hollowed out towns and cities; long-term the greater connectivity would revitalise the economies of these neglected North West towns and cities.
Travel from northern Cumbria across the Pennines to the North East , which the data shown above indicates is shocking , would be improved by up-grading and electrifying the Carlisle to Newcastle railway line and turning the A69 into a motorway. The M6 also needs widening to four lanes each way to alleviate congestion; this would improve journey times to the rest of the North West and further south.
Sources of Data:
Stagecoach Bus Services (Arriva North East, Stagecoach North West)
The National Express