A group of Lindisfarne residents are fighting a transport plan they fear will turn their home into a “theme park.”
A three-car ‘land train’, similar to those often seen at seaside attractions, is expected to be introduced to the island for a trial period, pulling up to 36 passengers at a time along the routes. from the island to the village and the castle.
Supporters argue it will help the island’s tourism industry recover from Covid-19 – but others believe it is not the traditional place of pilgrimage.
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At the time of writing, more than 1,190 people had signed a petition calling on Northumberland County Council to oppose the service, which had been set for immediate approval but will now undergo a four-week trial in response to local concerns.
Steve Wood, of Woody’s Taxis, Berwick, which is to operate the train, said he was offering the open-air service with the aim of providing a safe Covid alternative to the bus he previously took on the same route.
Steve insists the overland train will support local businesses by allowing more people to visit the island, stopping regularly along the route to allow people to get off and visit shops or restaurants .
But hotel employee Nicola Douglas, who started the petition, worries the train will negatively impact local businesses and affect the island’s unique atmosphere.
She said: “First and foremost, I don’t think Holy Island is the place for a land train: this is not Disneyland, we are not a theme park. The shuttle is required for them. people with disabilities and the elderly, but a land train will appeal to families and children who may have walked, which will eliminate noise from the stalls along the route.
“The streets here are already awful with traffic and parking is a nightmare: I think the train is going to wreak havoc with the traffic, especially for businesses that get deliveries every day.
“When tourists come to the island, we want them to enjoy it for what it is, we want them to have good service so that they come back, and people feel for so many reasons that a land train takes away the island experience. We had almost 1,200 signatures on the petition and the majority of them are actually visitors, not just Islanders. “
Nicola, 47, who has lived on the island her entire life, said locals should have been consulted on changing transport arrangements.
She said: “This is going to have such a huge impact on the village that we should have had our word in advance.”
In a notice to residents, the Holy Island Parish Council said it was not in favor of the program but was unable to prevent it from going ahead, and had agreed a test to “assess the real impact on visitors, residents and the overall handling of the train”.
Steve, who has operated the shuttle on the island for the past three years, argued that the change would help many local businesses struggling to recover from Covid-19 by making the island safely accessible to more people.
He said: “The reason for using a land train is that it is open air, so it is Covid-compatible. It is about a mile from the village, so it is necessary for anyone with a disability. or having difficulty walking, but many people are still worried about getting on a bus.
“Freeways, police and local services have no road safety issues. The train is only 10mph, it’s narrower than a bus and it has a driver in the back, so it’s more. sure than the shuttle.It’s more environmentally friendly because it has a smaller motor.
“All of this is happening because some local people don’t want it on ‘their island’ – but they don’t own the island. There are now locals on the island with young families who are eager to go. take their kids This isn’t a theme park ride, it’s a more traditional, older design. “
A spokesperson for Northumberland County Council said: “Applications for land train vehicles are being reviewed by County Council as well as other agencies, including the police, for any safety risk. public on specified routes.
“In its role as Autoroutes Autoroutes, the Council considers that driving the vehicle on the specified route poses no unacceptable risk to public safety. However, in the light of certain comments received from the consultation undertaken with the Councilor of local county, parish Council and other stakeholder organizations, the County Council approved the operation “in principle” subject to the successful completion of a month’s trial.
“Licenses for the use and operation of land trains for genuine tourism / tourism purposes are issued by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency. “
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