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Keswick to Penrith Railway Re-opening

About the Project

WHAT IS “Return to Keswick” ?

This is an independent project to reopen the Railway between Keswick and Penrith, to provide a much needed transport link into and out of the northern Lake District. CKP Railways plc was formed in 1998 specifically for this purpose.

It is independent because Government and the Department of Transport do not normally sponsor railway reopenings – such projects are expected to be driven by local commercial interests since privatisation in the 1990s.

Local Authorities such as County Councils (which are usually the Local Transport Authorities) also do not generally undertake such projects as they do not have the necessary fudning or expertise. They are more likely to provide limited subsidies to existing operations and small grants for minor improvements.

The local authorities will all benefit from this reopening but do not have the resources to fund and implement such a project.
There is also no obligation on local authorities to contribute, but policies at National, Regional and local level exist to protect the trackbeds of former Railways so that they are not obstructed by development, and remain available for reopening.

This will be a modern Railway, built to the current standards for main line railways, and will be operated by modern trains to and from other parts of northern Britain, not just a shuttle between Keswick and Penrith.

It is planned to operate at least an hourly service from early morning to late night, every day of the week, all year round. This will cater for visitors, local transport needs, commuting, social and other transport needs in the northern Lake District and help to reconnect West Cumbria to the outside world.

Based on Tourist Board figures and various independent studies, between 250,000 and 450,000 passengers are expected to use the service every year. With fares comparable to local bus services, the Railway can cover operating costs and maintenance and generate returns for further development at these traffic levels.

There are several possible stages of development from a simple single track Railway (enough for an hourly service) to one with double track, extra stations and platforms, and capacity for more frequent services, charters, special trains etc.

Benefits to the are will include reduction of traffic congestion, relief of car parking problems, reduced dependence on cars, improved public transport network for everyone, major fuel savings, environmental benefits, social and economic boosts by bring communities, businesses and social facilities over a wide area into closer contact.

Direct employment, supporting services, business opportunities and increased visitor spending will all assist communities in the area.

No regular freight traffic is expected, but occasional loads from quarries and forests along the line are possible and could be accommodated without special facilities.

WHO IS CKP Railways plc ?

CKP Railways plc is the Company running the project to reopen the Railway.

It is based in Carlisle and makes use of local knowledge, skills and experience as far as possible.

Professional skills are bought in as needed and paid for by results.


The Company is a public limited company (plc) so that it can raise investment funds from the public. It is not a massive bureaucracy and does not have massive overheads (no big office block, no salaried staff, no unnecessary spending whatsoever). All money raised by CKP goes directly into the development of the Railway.


The driving force behind the project is Cedric Martindale, a Professional Railway Engineer who works on Railway construction, development and operations in the UK, Europe and countries of the former Soviet Union.  He is one of the Directors and deals with all practical aspects of the project.


Cedric formed the Company in 1998 when it became clear that the Railway was not going to be reopened by any of the public bodies that might be expected to do so, although many support the proposal. The Directors of CKP Railways plc receive no salary or other benefits and have put in about 20,000 hours of their own time so far to bring the project this far.


This project is the first of its kind, and is expected to become a model for other worthwhile Railway re-openings around the UK.


Development work is carried out by specialists hired for specific tasks and coordinated by Corus Rail Infrastructure Services for CKP.


The line is planned to be built and maintained on a Design Build Finance and Maintain (DBFM) basis with Contractors.


Trains will be supplied by existing Train Operators extending their services on the National Network to Keswick.


What about grant funding ?

Various grants have been sought, including Lottery funding.
None have been provided, although the project was deemed eligible for Millennium funding - just before money was swallowed up by the Dome at Greenwich.

The Heritage Lottery Fund agreed that we qualified as a project to improve public access to a heritage asset of regional and national significance (the Lake District National Park) but declined funding as we are not the owners of the National Park.

Other grant schemes since then have either offered only small amounts in exchange for massive workload in the application, or have conditions attached which are inappropriate.

What we have to do

The line closed in 1972 but has not been taken over by the A66 road between Keswick and Penrith, contrary to common belief.

About 90% of the trackbed is undamaged and all the major bridges and tunnels still exist – some are even still maintained on behalf of the National Railway network.

Our task is to :-
   Get access to all sections of the trackbed,
  Repair and replace earthworks and
      structures as necessary
   Install new drainage, ballast, track and
      control systems

   Build or renew stations where needed for
      the future.


This might sound like a huge task, but is only about 25% of the effort required to build a new Railway "from scratch".

CKP Railways plc will apply to Government for a Transport and Works Order for the legal powers to operate the Railway.

To do this we must present:

  • Engineering Designs                                              (already done by Corus Rail Infrastructure commissioned by CKP)
  • Environmental Impact Assessments                     (work in progress, coordinated by Corus, working for CKP)
  • Business Case                                                        (Being developed by consultants for the Northwest Regional Development Agency)
  • Legal application and supporting information     (to follow, bringing all these elements together)

All the Engineering and Environmental work has been funded by CKP Railways plc, which has raised more than £330,000 through the sale of Bonds to the public.

There has been no grant funding from local authorities, Lottery or other public sources.

Many applications for funding have been made, and turned down for reasons which often seem obscure - or were not even explained.

Other funds are raised through subscriptions to newsletters, sales of books, videos, CDs etc relating to the line, and commissions form sales of rail tickets and other products by supportive organisations.


The current project focuses only on reinstating the line from Penrith to Keswick only - as a commercial proposition.

CKP Railways plc is aware that many would like to see links westwards to Workington and eastwards to Appleby.

Rebuilding from Keswick to Workington would need a new route almost all the way – many times more expensive than reopening on an existing trackbed. It could be done, but would need a lot of financial assistance and political will.

Reopening from Penrith to Appleby, joining the Settle and Carlisle line, would establish a very useful network for Cumbria.

This would also be expensive as it will need two main line junctions and new alignments where the A66 and other developments have taken land. The original line over Stainmore to Darlington has also been severely obstructed at its eastern end.

Both the Workington and Appleby extensions will be considered as future projects if the conditions are right.

A reopened Wensleydale line (Garsdale to Northallerton) would complete an alternative link across the Pennines.

Reconnecting Keswick is the essential first step towards viability of that extended network.


The name CKP (CKP Railways plc is running the project) reflects the title of the company which opened the line in 1864 (The Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway). The CK&PR was the last link in a route from the west coast of Cumbria to the Industrial North East, primarily for coal, coke, iron and steel traffic.


The original CK&PR never ran its own trains – other Companies paid to run trains on the CK&P route.

When Railtrack was created, the same idea was used, and presented as a new way of doing business on the railways !


Passenger traffic and tourism became more important in the Lake District in the 20th Century.


The cross country traffic was gradually run down after the grouping of the Railways in 1923 and Nationalisation in 1948 because different sections were controlled by different organisations.

Closure of the coast to coast route took place in stages.

Workington to Keswick closed in 1966 and the trackbed was used in many places for construction of the A66 road.

Keswick to Penrith closed in 1972, without ever having a modernised timetable, despite many protests.

To see how we are getting along, please go to the "Progress" page

Copyright 2007 - 2019, CKP Railways plc

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