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Major research study outlines positive future for the Bentham Line

The Leeds-Morecambe Community Rail Partnership (CRP) has released the findings of its Bentham Line Development Study, outlining a route map for the development of the line in future years.

The major research report, completed by consultants Stantec and AllanRail, explored possibilities over the next two decades to continue the healthy growth the line has experienced over the last twenty years, with the number of journeys along the route having more than doubled in that time.

The findings 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 public, from both along and beyond the line, to the associated survey.

The study covered all aspects of the line from Leeds to Morecambe: the full 75-mile route itself; the local services between Lancaster and Morecambe; and the interaction with other routes including the Settle to Carlisle Line, the Airedale Line, and connections to Cumbria and beyond.

The executive summary of the study highlighted a number of key themes, including:

  • The possibilities for early decarbonisation with the use of battery technology, and low-cost electrification of the Lancaster to Morecambe section of the line;
  • 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 targets relating to the demand for active leisure and tourism travel including the proposed Eden North Project in Morecambe.

Gerald Townson, chairman of the CRP, said: “I was delighted by the large number of stakeholders and individuals who engaged with the consultants; the thorough and thoughtful approach adopted by Stantec and AllanRail, and by the variety of options identified for future development.”

Stantec project director Stephen Canning added: “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 CRP wishes to acknowledge funding from Northern and Community Rail Network to enable the study to be undertaken. The work also carries a dedication to the late David Alder, a founding member of the CRP and the treasurer who instigated the study and prepared the initial detailed tender documentation. 

The study can be viewed on the CRP website at