Steam train company to take over railway line after Northern suspend services

Heritage trains will now run instead of Northern services on a tourist line in the Lake District that has been beset by weeks of cancellations.

West Coast Railways, which specialises in steam-hauled charter excursions, has stepped in to restore services on the Oxenholme to Windermere line after Northern, the regular passenger operator, replaced services with buses.

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The 10-mile route was a casualty of the recent timetabling fiasco which has seen trains cancelled across the Northern network due to a shortage of drivers with the appropriate training.

The suspension was announced in early June and was originally meant to last two weeks, but Northern trains will now not run again until July 2.

In the meantime, the steam charter company will even run trains for free along the line as the Department of Transport have agreed to pay the £55,000 daily bill.

There will be six services per day hauled by a 40-year-old diesel engine - which ironically is only slightly older than many of the 1980s Pacers which normally operate on the line.

Northern will introduce a 'shuttle' timetable when the line is restored on July 2, with 12 daily trains from 6.30am until 8pm.

The area's MP, Tim Farron, worked with passengers to arrange for West Coast Railways to step in, although he is continuing to put pressure on Northern to increase the reliability of the line.

The Department of Transport confirmed that West Coast Railways is classed as an open access operator - meaning it does not operate on a franchise basis - and that it holds a valid safety certificate.