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05 January 2016

Cumbria floods - Pupils brave rain, wind and darkness on first running of A591 shuttle-bus

Shuttle bus

This morning pupils from Keswick School braved the wind, rain and darkness to cross Dunmail Raise using the new footpath and shuttle-bus service put in place by Cumbria County Council, following the collapse of the road during December’s floods.

The seven pupils travelled from south to north being picked up in Rydal and Grasmere and transported to the top of Dunmail Raise. From there they got off the bus and walked, supervised, down the road and along the newly created footpath which bypasses where the road has been washed away. At the end of the path they were then picked up by a second bus and continued their journey to Keswick using the western shore road around Thirlmere Resevoir.

Conditions were unpleasant for this first running of the new service, with wind, driving rain, cold and darkness making the floodlit 15 minute walk quite an adventure for the keen students.

Prior to this connection being put in place pupils had been given work from school to do at home, as the major detour required in order to get to school made attending in person very impractical.

Work to put the new footpath in place was done in the space of a weekend, after the original plan to walk pupils down the remaining road was made impossible because of further erosion by floodwater in late December.

The footpath connection will remain in place until a new temporary road has been constructed on the opposite, eastern, side of Dunmail Raise utilising existing forest roads. The aim is to have this ready towards the start of February. This will then allow the school shuttle-bus to drive the whole route. It is important to note that the new footpath is not currently open to the general public.

The aspiration is for the shuttle-service to become a general public transport option, creating a commercial bus route connecting Grasmere and Keswick. Work is underway now to try and make this happen.

Work with Highways England to repair the damage to the main road itself is already underway with meetings this week to progress the options and to formulate a timetable for its repair.

Keith Little, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, said:

“Today was an encouraging first step. Getting those young people, some of whom are in the middle of their GCSE’s and A Levels, back into school was really important and we’ve achieved that thanks to some great work by our highways and school transport teams. Hopefully not every morning will be as inclement as today!

“At the same time as this work we’ve been continuing to work on clearing the main A591. Further landslides due to heavy rain have meant hundreds of tonnes of additional rock having to be cleared from the road while work is also underway to assess and clear the over 80 culverts which drain water under the road and are now blocked with debris.

“We have also had Highways England senior managers on site assessing what needs to be done to repair the carriageway and I hope we’ll start to get a firmer idea of how long the complete fix of the road will take. The A591 is the Lake District’s ‘spine’ and we are determined to get it done as quickly as possible.”

Heidi Halliday, Cumbria County Councillor for Lakes Division, said:

“I got on the school bus at Rydal this morning and travelled to the footpath with the school pupils and accompanied them along the new path. It all went smoothly and was incredibly well organised and safe. It was obvious the amount of work done to make this happen and it really was a great job. The focus is very much now on getting the whole road open as soon as possible.”

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This morning pupils from Keswick School braved the wind, rain and darkness to cross Dunmail Raise using the new footpath and shuttle-bus service put in place by Cumbria County Council, following the collapse of the road during December�s floods.