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04 February 2016

Vital link to be re-established - plans for A591 bus service confirmed

Shuttle bus1

A public bus service connecting Keswick and Grasmere via Thirlmere is planned to start on Tuesday 16 February using the temporary road being built to bypass “The Gap” on Dunmail Raise.

It had been hoped the service would start next week, but the forecast of very high winds over the next several days is set to delay completion of the temporary road. This is because the crane needed to install the second Bailey bridge cannot be operated in high winds. High winds had already delayed installation of the first Bailey bridge earlier this week.

The bus service, which will be delivered on a commercial basis by Stagecoach, will connect with existing bus services at Grasmere.  It will operate on an hourly basis from 7am until 7pm six days a week, with a two hourly service on a Sunday between 10am and 5pm, and offer a journey time of 45 minutes; cutting the existing journey time between the two locations by almost two hours. Buses will leave Keswick at 5 minutes past the hour and leave Grasmere at 10 minutes to the hour (apart from the first bus of the day which will depart at 7am).

Users of the service will also benefit from significantly reduced  ticket prices with Dayrider passes covering the two locations priced at £5 (previous equivalent of £10.80) and weekly Megarider tickets priced at £20 (previously £27.30).

Pick up and drop off points will be at all the usual 555 service stops, with the exception of those between Wythburn Church and the Dam road end (the closed section of the A591 alongside Thirlmere).

The bus will bypass the damaged sections of the A591 beside Thirlmere by using the minor road along the western shore of the reservoir; it will then cross the A591 at the bottom of Dunmail Raise and proceed up the temporary road before reconnecting with the A591 at the summit of Dunmail Raise. The road was designed by the council’s contractors Capita and is being built by local firm Thomas Armstrong Ltd.

While the temporary road will not be open to private vehicle traffic, the potential for this to happen has not been ruled out. Given the temporary nature of the road, engineers have advised that there should be a period of time allowed to monitor the impact of the shuttle-bus on the road’s integrity before any decision can be made about allowing higher volumes of traffic to use the road.

Work on the full repair of the A591 is being led by Highways England.

 Cllr Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Roads and Highways, said:

 “This will be a significant step forward, people will have a fully operational bus service providing an important connection between north and south. We’ve worked closely with Stagecoach to make this happen and I’m delighted they’ve been able to offer such a significant discount to their normal ticket prices.

 “I appreciate people may be frustrated that we will not be opening the road up to private traffic at the same time, but we have to follow the advice of our engineers and their advice is that we have to see how the road holds up before we can make that decision. It’s not ruled out, but we can’t make the decision right now.”

 Stagecoach Cumbria and North Lancashire Managing Director Matthew Cranwell said:

 "It has been a challenging time for regular users of the A591. We have worked in partnership with Cumbria County Council and are pleased to be able to step in to deliver this hourly shuttle service using the temporary road - it will open up a vital direct link between the north and south lakes for the first time since December and we believe it will make a big difference for people travelling between Grasmere and Keswick. Customers using the service will benefit from hugely reduced journey times as well as a significant price discount and we would encourage people - even those who may not be regular bus users - to take advantage of this temporary transport option.

 "This service also represents our continued support of the local communities affected by the floods - it has been a very difficult few months for many local areas. As well as contributing to the Cumbria Flood Appeal, we are pleased to be playing our part in helping to keep communities connected through our local bus services."

 Mark Steele, Civil Engineering and Highways Director at Thomas Armstrong (Construction) Ltd, said:

 “We’ve been pleased to be involved in this job, the road we’ve built is going to help people start getting around a bit more easily and we know how important that is. Work has gone well despite some challenging weather. The biggest frustration has been the high winds that have prevented us using cranes safely. That's going to be a serious issue again over the next few days, hence the delay in getting the road finished.”

 David Knight, Infrastructure Director at Capita said:

 “Our team have worked hard over the last month to identify a suitable route for the temporary road across this difficult upland terrain, source the two Bailey Bridges and supervise Thomas Armstrong on site. As a locally based firm it is very satisfying to be part of the team tasked with restoring this vital link.”

A public bus service connecting Keswick and Grasmere via Thirlmere is planned to start on Tuesday 16 February using the temporary road being built to bypass “The Gap” on Dunmail Raise.