THE proposal by Northern Tidal Power Gateway for bridges across Morecambe Bay and the Duddon Estuary is an exciting prospect with potential economic benefits for Barrow-in-Furness and west Cumbria, and environmental benefits for south Cumbria (Gazette, November 28, 'Hopes are high for Bay bridge').

But, as proposed, the scheme offers only half the benefit it could provide because the bridge would carry only a road. It should, of course, carry an electric railway as well. This would shorten the journey from Barrow to Lancaster (and onwards to Manchester Airport or London) from an hour to about 20 minutes.

Perhaps more significantly, an express service could be developed to serve Whitehaven and Workington, halving journey times to and from west Cumbria, and removing, at a stroke, the historic isolation of the area. A road, on its own, will not do this.

With a fast, direct rail service over the bridge to Barrow and west Cumbria from the south, the coastal service between Lancaster and Barrow via Grange-over-Sands and Ulverston could be improved, with all trains terminating in Barrow.

So, Northern Tidal Power Gateway needs to develop its proposals so as to double the benefit at much less than double the cost. Of course, detailed environmental studies are also needed to ensure the bridges, with their marine turbines, would not adversely affect the ecology of the bay and estuary.

Oliver Barratt MBE