Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has revealed millions of pounds will be pumped into revamping Cumbria’s road and rail network.

In a visit to West Cumbria, the secretary of state joined Highways England to open consultation on upgrading the crucial A595, increasing the possibility of around “£200 to £250 million” of investment in a Whitehaven relief road.

Speaking at the town’s Beacon Museum, he also confirmed a multi-million development phase is in the pipeline, which would see improvements to the county’s coastal rail line.

“This is probably the most significant part of upgrading the A595, creating a relief road for Whitehaven,” he said.

“This is starting the formal consultation process. It’s got to be a joint project in terms of how it’s shaped between the local community and Highways England.”

Mr Grayling said the project has been included in the next road investment period, which runs from 2020 to 2025.

Copeland residents have previously raised fears over the continuation of plans for a relief road if the Moorside nuclear development does not go ahead.

They have also voiced concerns over a stretch of the A595 near the Howgate roundabout, where an embankment has started to slip.

The transport secretary said: “You can’t have a situation where this road collapses, so there is a duty on behalf of Highways England, regardless of anything else, that the road stays in good order.

“There’s a logic in trying to integrate two projects but that could not happen if there was a question of the road being allowed to collapse and Whitehaven being cut off.”

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison added: “This road isn’t dependant on Moorside.”

She welcomed the road and rail news, saying: “I’m so pleased the secretary of state has stuck to his word. Not just on the A595 but he also announced a £9 million pound fund to support the development part of the Cumbrian coastal line.

“This is not a consultation for consultation’s sake. I would encourage anyone with an interest to complete the consultation.”

Highways England planning manager Emily Waterfall said a relief road was one option, but they were open to ideas from the public.

“I wouldn’t like to commit to any costs at the minute but we think it would be in the region of around £200 to £250 million,” she said.

“That is a very early, high-level estimate. That is dependant on what option goes ahead.”

On rail plans, Mr Grayling said: “My view is the economy in West Cumbria, and Cumbria as a whole, needs better transport. We’re putting several million pounds into the initial development work on the coastline.

“It’s probably not a single project. This is a line that is going to need to be resignalled and upgraded.”

A595 consultation will take place between 10am and 4pm on Saturday, November 17 and 2pm and 7pm on Wednesday, November 28 at the Beacon Museum.

A third session will be held at Westlakes Science and Technology Park on Thursday, November 29, from 10am to 2pm.