Meeting called after Holy Island land train fury

Rising anger over plans to introduce a land train on Holy Island has prompted Northumberland County Council to call a meeting to hear the concerns of residents and local businesses.

A land train would carry passengers from Holy Island village to Lindisfarne Castle.
A land train would carry passengers from Holy Island village to Lindisfarne Castle.

A petition set up to oppose the application by a local transport firm to introduce the vehicle as a Covid-friendly alternative to the shuttle bus that currently operates on the island has now topped 6,500 signatures.

It was created by resident Nicola Douglas and called for the plans to be halted.

“The majority of residents do not want this,” she claims. “As an islander, I'm asking for your help to get this stopped, Holy Island is a unique place, beautiful, tranquil and spiritual to many others.”

The form, called The Stopping of the Road Train, on, is aiming to reach 7,500 signatures, stating: “At 7,500 signature, this petition is more more likely to get a reaction from the decision maker.”

But the county council has stepped in before it reaches that tipping point. While the council is not responsible for granting the licence – which falls to the responsibility of the UK Vehicle Certification Agency – it is one of a number of organisations that has been consulted.

The train would transport tourists from the main car park, into the village and on towards Lindisfarne Castle and a four-week trial run has been approved, but many believe it will turn the peaceful island into a “theme park”. Others, including local businesses fear it is not suitable for the narrow streets and that it will take passing trade away from businesses along the route.

Cllr Glen Sanderson, leader of Northumberland County Council, is to invite representatives from Holy Island Parish Council, the AONB, National Trust and other key stakeholders to come together to discuss and better understand all the issues.

He said: “Holy Island is a very special place with a hugely important historic past. It is clear this is a very sensitive issue and I have sympathy and fully understand the concerns of many of the islanders.

“It is important to point out that licences for the application and operation of Land Trains for genuine tourist and sightseeing purposes are issued by the UK Vehicle Certification Agency, so we have limited powers in this respect.

“The county council has been consulted purely from a highways safety perspective, and it is our opinion that the vehicle will not pose any unacceptable risk to the public. However, there are clearly wider issues and concerns that need to be discussed and heard, and I hope that by calling a meeting we can listen and together agree a way forward.”

The operator is proposing the land train undertakes a four-week trial to assess its impact on visitors, residents and the overall manoeuvrability of the three carriages through the streets on the island.

Nicola adds: “The whole idea of a land train smacks of a holiday park and that is certainly not what it is. Why do I care? Because it’s my home and I hope you all help me to get this stopped by signing.”