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Monday, 28 January 2008

Speeches from our demonstration

Below is a compilation of speeches from our Demonstration at Woodhead's western portal on 12th January, all taken from YouTube & all in the order they spoke on the day:

Chris Davies, MEP for the North West of England:

Peter Cranie, Green Party Euro candidate for the North West of England:

Anne Robinson, Friends of the Peak District:

A representative from Plane Stupid:

Peter Allen, High Peak Green Party:

Colin Elliff, a railway civil engineer:

Hugh Searle, 'Woodhead enthusiast':

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Save the Woodhead Tunnel press release: Kelly’s ignorance is Woodhead tunnel’s biggest threat

We are sending out this press release today following the recent remarks of Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly in a transport questions slot in the House of Commons on January 22nd 2008 (details can be found here):

Last week the National Grid (NG) set up a compound at Dunford Bridge, South Yorkshire as a base for its project to install cables through the newest of Woodhead’s three disused railway tunnels. The double-track structure was opened in 1954 as a replacement for two Victorian single-bore tunnels.

The route is seen as strategically important by regional business and transport bodies as the existing trans-Pennine rail lines are now working close to capacity. With the demand for rail freight forecast to grow by more than 25% over the next ten years, the case for reopening the Woodhead route is now compelling. The cabling project would scupper that as the 1954 tunnel could not accommodate both trains and 400kV cables - a view endorsed by the National Grid itself and other engineers.

But not, it would seem, our Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly. On 22nd January, she told the Commons that NG “owns the tunnel and can invest in its own cabling in the tunnel. Secondly, it has assured us that even if it did that, it would not preclude reopening the tunnel for freight traffic were the growth of freight traffic to warrant it.”

Today her department was forced to issue an embarrassing clarification, explaining that the project would indeed prevent the 1954 tunnel from being used for rail but the adjacent single bores would be available as the National Grid is moving its existing cables out of them.

But this position does not hold water either. The single bore tunnels are unsuitable for European gauge freight trains and high-speed passenger services. Perhaps the DfT envisages a multi-million pound scheme to lay a steam-hauled tourist line through them?

The financial implications don’t stack up either. At a meeting on 14th January, the National Grid told members of the ‘Save the Woodhead Tunnel’ campaign team that refurbishing the old tunnels would cost £165 million. OfGem laid constraints on NG through a Capital Price Plan which effectively ruled out this option.

To put this figure into context, relaying 35-miles of the Waverley Railway between Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders is currently costed at around £175 million. Translink’s 2006 bid to reopen the 32-mile Woodhead line for an HGV piggy-back service involved a capital investment of £159 million.

The campaign is making a Freedom of Information Act request to OfGem to secure documents relating to the financing of this project and the decision-making which went on around it. But, even at this stage, it seems that the figures quoted by NG are grossly over-inflated.

Contacts in South Wales tell us that, over the summer, a disused tunnel is due to be repaired by the British Railways Board. It is in excess of 1,300 yards long, has collapsed in places, and there are houses and highways above it. BRB’s annual budget is less than £8 million. For this, it inspects almost 4,000 non-operational structures and carries out repairs.

Construction work is currently nearing completion on a five-mile long tunnel near Loch Ness which forms part of a hydro-electric scheme. In total, nine miles of new tunnel have been bored. The total cost of this project is £140 million.

The National Grid is guilty either of gross financial incompetence or a deliberate manipulation of the facts in order to justify its preferred, cheapest option.

The ‘Save the Woodhead Tunnel’ campaign believes that the new Woodhead tunnel must be secured for future railway use. Ruth Kelly’s failure to do so demonstrates this government’s acute short-sightedness. The National Grid should be compelled to invest a little more of its riches in the refurbishment of the Victorian tunnels. This should not include gold-plating them.

Two things need to happen as a matter of urgency. An informed decision has to be taken as to the most sustainable use of the new Woodhead tunnel for the 21st Century, involving an effective dialogue with regional planners, the rail industry and other relevant stakeholders.
OfGem must also launch an evaluation of NG’s project submission with particular emphasis on the legitimacy of its costings.

All works at the tunnel must be suspended until the outcome of these reviews is known.

Work has started - but the campaign goes on...

We can reveal that National Grid have started work at Woodhead. The above photo shows that a compound and portakabins have been set up next to the Eastern portal at Dunford Bridge for the contractors who will be doing the work (click here for a google map).

We were told by National Grid last week that work had been started to set up this site last Monday, January 14th. We were also told that work to form a roadway will begin at the end of February, with work to install the cables commencing in June of this year.

This is not a time for despair and resignation. This campaign was set up in haste and at the last minute against the background what should be viewed as a genuine potential threat to the environment and the future direction of transport infrastructure in the North West region, perhaps even the country.

We will continue to build our campaign to raise awareness and to act to prevent disaster. But we need your help...

'Rail' magazine: 'Save Woodhead' group oppose power cable plan (Andy Coward)

An article from the latest edition of 'Rail' magazine, with a profile of our group and the campaign issues, by Andy Coward:

Plans by National Grid to lay 400kV electricity power cables through the 'new' tunnel at Woodhead, on the closed Manchesler-Sheffield line, have been fiercely criticised by campaigners trying to safeguard the route for future use.

National Grid (NG) currently has its transpennine power supply carried through one of two singlebore Victorian tunnels which were constructed when the line was first built in 1845 and 1852, but the cabling is coming to the end of its life and the tunnels are now in a poor state of repair.

The power company is therefore proposing laying new cables through the new Woodhead tunnel, which was opened alongside the single-bore tunnels in 1954. This would rule out any restoration of rail services on the route say campaigners.

A 'Save the Woodhead Tunnel' campaign group has been formed seeking to safeguard the 1954 tunnel for future transport use. The group believes that a reopened Woodhead line could play a vital role in meeting the demands for growing railfreight traffic, while also providing better passenger links between Manchester and Sheffield.

The Department for Transport has already approved plans by NG to use the new tunnel for laying its cables but the campaigners think this decision needs to be reconsidered and are calling for preparatory works by NG, which started on January 14, to be stopped.

Campaign co-ordinator Jonathan Atkinson said: "its a really important issue in terms
future rail and freight services, the economic prosperity which would be brought to both sides of the Pennines and the bigger environmental challenges we face at the moment. We believe there is a very strong case against the moves being taken by National Grid."

In early December an Early Day Motion, signed by 50 MPs, was presented by Labour's Graham Stringer calling on the government to intervene on the issue as a matter of urgency ensure the route is not lost forever.

On January 12, more than 60 campaigners gathered at the western portal of the tunnel to stage a protest against the plans.

The 41-mile Woodhead route was closed In 1981, with BR claiming it did not need two lines linking the cities. Despite repeated calls for its be reopened to rail traffic there are currently no firm plans for services to be returned to the route.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Ruth Kelly on Woodhead

Tuesday 22nd January saw Angela Smith (MP for Sheffield Hillsborough) take the opportunity to ask questions of the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, in the House of Commons. Below are details of the exchange (also recorded on this page on

Angela Smith: I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend is committed to developing the use of rail for freight. She will be aware that many Members of this House share the ambition of the Northern Way to reopen the Woodhead line, not least because doing so would offer us the opportunity to carry more freight by rail in the north. Will she therefore commit to ensuring that the National Grid Company does not use the 1953 Woodhead tunnel for its recabling work, because doing so would dash completely any hope that we have of reopening that line for freight?

Ruth Kelly: My hon. Friend makes her point in her own way, but it is important that we keep as many options open as possible. I have had contact with the National Grid Company about this, and I think that two points are true. First, it owns the tunnel and can invest in its own cabling in the tunnel. Secondly, it has assured us that even if it did that, it would not preclude reopening the tunnel for freight traffic were the growth of freight traffic to warrant it. I am committed to ensuring that we work with the National Grid Company to keep all options on the table.

It is important to note three fundamental errors in Ruth Kelly's statement, both of which were explained to us by National Grid themselves at our meeting with them on 14th January. Firstly, the 1953 tunnel will definitely be put beyond use for anything but cabling. There were no plans on behalf of National Grid to allow concurrent use of the tunnel for cabling and rail traffic. Indeed, part of their motivation for using the 1953 tunnel was to ensure that future expansion of cabling capacity, which they said would be needed for the projected growth in demand for electricity supply, would be possible.

Secondly, they reported to us that since the new cables that would be installed had a 40 year 'asset life', the tunnel could only be available for use by trains in 40 years time. The implication was that they would want compensation from anyone who wanted to use the tunnel, and this was latterly explicitly stated by them.

Thirdly, they stated plainly that once they had moved cables from the Victorian tunnels, that these tunnels would not be maintained and would in fact be sealed up for good. They clearly do not intend to stand any of the costs that may be necessary to maintain the old tunnels.

We will have our own response to Ruth Kelly's statement in due course...

Look Local: Angela Smith joins railway fight

An article from today's 'Look Local' about Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith who is backing our campaign to keep the Woodhead Tunnel open for trains:

Local MP Angela Smith has taken up the fight to reopen the 1953 Woodhead Tunnel as a railway line instead of using it to house electricity cables.

Angela does not agree with the National Grid’s plans to use the tunnel to route power cables between South Yorkshire and Manchester.

She has joined with protestors and 60 other MPs to lobby the Government to force National Grid to halt the plans.

Angela said: “A cross-Pennine route for transport is still part of statutory plans and is suggested in the Government’s White Paper, ‘Delivering a Sustainable Railway’. The only suitable route is the 1953 tunnel.

“The Northern Way group believes this route is a vital part of the strategic plans for the north of England.

“It is looking at re-opening the 1950s tunnel for freight rail traffic as part of ambitious plans to link the north of England’s cities by wide gauge rail.

“This would allow the major ports of the Humber to be directly connected to the manufacturing centres of the north west, north east, and South Yorkshire.

“If National Grid is allowed to put high voltage cables in this tunnel these major strategic plans would be put at risk.

“This is a view also shared by Sheffield City Council, who voted to keep the 1953 tunnel available for transport.”

Angela has written to both the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly MP, and the National Grid, asking for all plans to lay cables to be put on hold until an independent assessment of the future use of the tunnel can be made. She is also calling for a full debate on the future of the tunnel in Parliament.

The National Grid has said the two Victorian tunnels neighbouring the Woodhead Tunnel will be made available for transport from 2011.

But Angela believes this is unacceptable, saying that, by National Grid’s own admission, the tunnels are in poor condition, deteriorating quickly and proving expensive to maintain.

She also believes that neither of these tunnels are wide enough for modern wide gauge trains.

Sheffield Star: Kelly forced to backtrack on Woodhead (Mark Hookham)

An article from today's Sheffield Star about recent comments in the House of Commons by Ruth Kelly (Secretary of State for Transport) regarding Woodhead, by Mark Hookham:

The future of the disused Woodhead tunnel was clouded in confusion today after Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly was forced to backtrack on comments she made in the Commons.
The cabinet minister revealed she has been in contact with National Grid Company and was confident plans to plant electricity cables in the 1953 Woodhead tunnel would not prevent its reopening as a trans-Pennine rail link.

But she was left red-faced as her department was forced to put out a statement clarifying her remarks.

A spokesman explained to The Star that laying the tracks would not prevent the two neighbouring Victorian tunnels from reopening in the future - but would prevent the more modern tunnel from reopening.

This is hotly disputed by MPs who say the Victorian tunnels, which are starting to collapse, are useless because they are unable to accommodate modern trains.

Sheffield's Economic Masterplan states better rail links across the Pennines are crucial - fuelling demands for the Woodhead link to be reopened to provide extra capacity for freight trains.

But it is feared plans by owners National Grid to move cables from the Victorian tunnels into the 1953 tunnel would put the more modern route beyond use.

Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith used Transport questions in the Commons to urge the government to ensure the National Grid does not use the 1953 tunnel for its cabling.

But Ms Kelly flummoxed MPs by replying: "First, it owns the tunnel and can invest in its own cabling in the tunnel.

"Secondly, it has assured us that even if it did that, it would not preclude reopening the tunnel for freight traffic were the growth of freight traffic to warrant it."

Speaking to The Star after the exchange, Ms Smith insisted it is impossible for trains and the cables to run side-by-side in the 1953 tunnel.

She said: "If a cable needs removing, you have a really expensive railway track over the top of it. It makes it impossible for maintenance work to be carried out."

The Department for Transport was forced to backtrack, saying the "line" - rather than the 1953 tunnel - would not be prevented by the recabling work from reopening in the future. A spokesman explained this could happen by using the Victorian tunnels.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Radio 4 report on our demonstration & Woodhead

BBC Journalist Mark Holdstock was present at our demonstration on 12th January, and he compiled a feature for Radio 4's 'You & Yours' about Woodhead and the issues surrounding it for broadcast the following week. Although the program is now offline, it has been ressurrected on YouTube, and we post this below:

BBC 'Look North' report on Woodhead demo

A report from BBC 'Look North' about our demonstration, from YouTube:

Rail Professional: Woodhead protestors fight to stop power cables being laid through rail tunnel

An article from the February 2008 edition of 'Rail Professional' about our demonstration on 12th January:

Protestors gathered at the entrance of the Woodhead tunnel in Derbyshire in January to highlight the plight of the closed Manchester to Sheffield railway line. There has been a campaign for the tunnel to re-open to carry either freight or high-speed trains.

But plans to run high-voltage power cables through the tunnel, which cuts through the Pennines, could spell the end of the hopes of campaigners to see the railway re-opened.

MEP Chris Davies, one of the campaign’s supporters, told demonstrators: ‘We are standing on the track bed of what I believe is the only electrified main line in Europe ever to have been closed. He added: ‘Where we are standing should be the pathway of the main high-speed line to the north west of England. We have 68 miles of high-speed line in this country to the Channel Tunnel from St Pancras. France already has 1,000 miles of 186mph railway.’

Aside from high-speed trains, other proposals for the old line have included using trains to carry lorries along it, in the same way as they are taken through the Channel Tunnel, to take the burden off surrounding roads. The first Woodhead tunnel was built in 1846 as part of the Woodhead Line, which carried coal from Sheffield to Manchester, and a second was soon added. A third tunnel was built in 1954 to house an electrified track, but closed in the 1980s, because the industries the trains catered for were in decline.

Owners National Grid already use one of the old tunnels to relay cables, but are planning to lay new ones in the 1954 tunnel. Trains could not run through the tunnel alongside the 400 kv cables.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Huddersfield Daily Examiner: Save our tunnel appeal (Sam Casey)

An article from today's Huddersfield Daily Examiner about political moves on Kirklees Council to save the Woodhead Tunnel, by Sam Casey:

Liberal Democrat councillors on Kirklees are campaigning to save Woodhead Tunnel.

Andrew Marchington, for Golcar ward, and David Woodhead (Holme Valley North) say re-opening it would provide a major boost for commuters and ease congestion.

The Government has approved plans by the National Grid to lay cables in the tunnel – which runs from Dunford Bridge to the bottom of the road from Holme Moss – preventing it from re-opening.

Clr Marchington said: “The plans for the tunnel are very short-sighted.

“Issues such as congestion and damage to the environment by road use should be considered now, before the tunnel is lost.’’

Clr Woodhead said: “In the Holme Valley the huge problem with congestion on the roads to and from Manchester could be avoided by investment in the rail network.”

The councillors are putting a motion to support the campaign to save the tunnel before Kirklees.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

National Grid Woodhead brochure & information line

One thing that has surprised us about the Woodhead issue is how few people know about National Grid's plans for Woodhead. Even senior figures in the rail industry we have talked to have been unaware.

Until now, the only people who have had access to information have been 'stakeholders' like Parish Councils. National Grid have told us that they are meeting them on a monthly basis since giving them presentations late last year.

We have been forwarded a PDF version of the brochure National Grid have produced and are making them available for download here (you can also click on the image above).

National Grid have told us that this leaflet is 'in the public domain', but we have looked high and low on the internet and cannot find it. So we are making it available to you now.

Also, National Grid have a freephone information line. If you want more info on the project, or wish to ask questions, or simply want to tell them you object to their plans, please phone 0800 085 1326. Remember, the call is on them, and since this is their 'community liaison team', they won't mind liaising with you directly...

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Look Local: Plea for Woodhead rail link

An article from today's 'Look Local' about the January 12th demonstration at Woodhead:

Green Stocksbridge Town Councillor Dan Lyons joined a protest last Saturday against plans to route power cables through the Woodhead tunnel instead of reopening it as a railway line.

Around a hundred demonstrators gathered at the tunnel in the Peak District National Park to condemn National Grid’s plans, which would mean using the main tunnel to route power cables between South Yorkshire and Manchester.

Transport chiefs want to double rail services between Sheffield and Manchester in the next 15 years and campaigners argue that the railway line could be reopened to provide a low-carbon transport link across the Pennines.

Councillor Lyons commented: “Given the imperative of tackling climate change, it is unbelievable that the Government is failing to keep the Woodhead rail tunnel option open, never mind organising its re-opening.

“The Woodhead rail tunnel provides a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to the proposed A628 Mottram-Tintwistle bypass, which will cause major environmental and road safety problems in Stocksbridge and South Yorkshire generally.”

Currently, the National Grid runs power cables through the two Victorian tunnels at Woodhead.

But these are starting to collapse, prompting plans to move them to the neighbouring Woodhead Tunnel.

Now campaigners are putting pressure on both the National Grid and the Government to consider opening the tunnel for future rail use.

The Woodhead tunnel was completed just after World War Two. The last passenger train ran through the new tunnel in 1971.

A spokesperson for the Government could not be contacted.

Glossop Chronicle: Woodhead Tunnel protest spells it out (David Jones)

An article from today's Glossop Chronicle about last Saturday's demonstration at Woodhead, by David Jones:

**this article mistakenly calls our campaign 'Friends of the Woodhead Tunnel' - we are 'Save the Woodhead Tunnel'. Also, the demonstration group was not 'organised by groups opposed to the Longdendale Bypass' as it states, although anti-bypass groups and individuals were and are involved**

Sixty protesters took a trip to the closed and shuttered Woodhead Tunnel entrance on Saturday to say why the line should be re-opened.

And many more arrived after the official demonstration to demand the National Grid (sic) halt plans to push power cables through it.

They were unanimous that the rail bed under the Pennines should get a new lease of life - trains carrying lorries between South Yorkshire and Manchester.

And they called for a national rail strategy ensuring the 1954 tunnel becomes the centerpiece of a Trans-Pennine high speed link, connecting the North West to east coast ports and ultimately the continent. They want politicians to work together towards this common aim.

The protest meeting was organised by groups opposed to the Longdendale Bypass under the blanket name 'Friends of the Woodhead Tunnel'.

For more than an hour speaker after speaker stressed the importance of re-opening the 53 year-old tunnel to freight and taking trucks off the A628.

And they had a message for the power giants planning to switch tunnels because the nearby Victorian versions they currently use are deteriorating - FIX THEM!

The groups are united in the belief that road building is not the 'quick-fix solution' to congestion problems. Translink - fronted by local resident Julian Newton - has produced a business plan for reopening the line. Its website has links to Hupak which provides similar roll-on, roll-off lorry services in Italy and Switzerland.

MEP Chris Davies said the Woodhead Tunel track was the only electrified main line in Europe to have closed. He said Woodhead should be the basis of a Norther high speed line.

He added that while Britain's rail system only had 68 miles passed for high speeds - the Channel Tunnel link - France has 1,000 miles with another 5000 planned.

Mr Davies criticised the 'short-sighted, short-term thinking' of successive governments', when the region should have been provided with modern, continental style links.

Saving Woodhead he maintained was the last opportunity to look to the future. But instead of government departments engaging in 'sensible, joined up thinking,' there was the 'nonsense of the National Grid taking decisions in isolation.'

The meeting called for the old Victorian tunnels to repaired and cables kept where they are.

Stephen Joseph of the Campaign for Better Transport demanded that the Government should intervene - because rail transport produced seven times less CO2 than road.

Local representatives of the Green Party denied that the Longdendale Trail (built on the track bed) would be destroyed if the line from Woodhead and into Hadfield was re-opened.

Anne Robinson of the Campaign for the Preservation of Rural England suggested a compromise - temporarily moving the cables to the 'new' tunnel while remedial work on the Victorian tunnels was carried out.

Colin Elliff, a railway civil engineer who has produced detailed plans for upgrading Britain's rail links, agree that this might be a possible way forward. But he insisted that a 'revived' Woodhead electrified line, complete with its tunnel which had been designed to take the largest continental rolling stock, as the key to the development of a properly linked system of high-speed lines in the North.

Many at the meeting recalled with regret that protests that were organised first against the loss of the line's passenger service in 1970 and in 1981 when the line itself was axed.

The general feeling was that it was time these two 'enormous mistakes' were addressed and out right. And that the line through Woodhead should be seen as an asset in Britain's rail revival.

This would bring the UK in step with the forward looking rail policies of the country's European partners.

Sheffield Star: MP's call for rail link tunnel vision (Richard Marsden)

A story from today's Sheffield Star about the Sheffield MP Angela Smith's plans to raise the profile of the campaign, by Richard Marsden:

Hillsborough MP Angela Smith has joined the battle to keep Woodhead Tunnel for improved rail services between South Yorkshire and Manchester.

The Labour politician and 60 other MPs are lobbying the Government to force owner National Grid to change its mind over plans to lay cables through the main tunnel, built in 1953.

Currently, the cables are in two neighbouring Victorian tunnels but these are deteriorating and becoming expensive to maintain.

However, Ms Smith believes it would be wrong to use the 1953 tunnel for electricity cables.

She said: "A new cross-Pennine route for transport is still part of statutory plans and is suggested in the Government's White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway. The only suitable route is the 1953 tunnel."

Ms Smith said she has written to both the Secretary of State for Transport Ruth Kelly MP, and National Grid, asking for the cable plans to be put on hold until an independent assessment of the future use of the tunnel can be made.

She is also calling for a full debate on the future of the tunnel in parliament.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Radio 4 'You & Yours' report... Mark Holdstock is audible from this page on the BBC Radio 4 website for the next 7 days. If you listen to the full programme, the Woodhead report starts at about 44 minutes into the show.

Glossop Advertiser: Tunnel demo 'victory' (Tom Rowley)

A report from today's Glossop Advertiser on last week's demonstration, by Tom Rowley:

Protestors seeking to save one of the country’s most famous railway tunnels hailed the big turnout at a demonstration at the weekend.

National Grid wants to lay electricity cables through the Woodhead Tunnel – last used by trains 27 years ago – but campaigners fear that will prevent it ever again being part of the railway network.

Environmental campaigners see a re-opened tunnel as an alternative to the Mottram-Tintwistle bypass.

National Grid currently uses one of two Victorian tunnels to house 440 kV electricity transmission cables. A third tunnel built in 1953 was bought by the grid and is the subject of the current controversy.

Jonathan Atkinson, co-ordinator of the Save Woodhead Tunnel campaign, said: "We had about 100 people turn up at the tunnel on Saturday, with quite a few from Glossop and Hadfield, but also from Oxford, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bolton and all over."

He added that the speakers showed the breadth of support for the campaign. These included local MEP Chris Davies, a local councillor from Yorkshire, a Green Party speaker from Liverpool and a speaker from the Friends of the Peak Park.

Jonathan, of Glossop, added: "We have a lot of support from councillors, MPs, MEPs and the railway lobby, but we need to keep the pressure on transport secretary Ruth Kelly until she makes a decision about the tunnel.

"There may well be a similar event at the same place in the next couple of months but there’s nothing definite yet."

The campaign received powerful support from the Northern Way group of three regional development agencies. Chairman Neville Chamberlain has written to Mrs Kelly.

"Ultimately, if the future use of the Woodhead Tunnels for rail is not assured the need to construct a major new tunnel across the Pennines could thwart the ambition of a new higher speed line ever happening. Additional, faster capacity across the Pennines will be critical to the economic future of the North," he said.

Northern Way transport director John Jarvis added: "It is likely that a new higher speed rail route across the Pennines will need to be built in the next 15-30 years. Without the availability of the Woodhead Tunnels this would involve large-scale, expensive tunnelling and dramatically increase the costs to build any new rail line across the Pennines."

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Local Transport Today: National Grid starts Woodhead tunnel work

An article in the current issue of Local Transport Today about National Grid commencing work in the 1954 rail tunnel:

The National Grid began preparatory work last week for the installation of new electricity cabling in the 1950s-built Woodhead tunnel across the Pennines in a move that rail campaigners fear will quash hopes of re-opening the tunnel to rail use.

The National Grid is installing cabling in the 1953 tunnel to replace life-expired 440 kV cabling in one of the two neighbouring Victorian tunnels (the Grid uses the second of these for storing associated equipment).

British Rail closed the Woodhead route that linked Manchester and Sheffield in 1981 but there have been a number of suggestions to re-open the line over the years, including as part of a rail freight link between the Channel Tunnel and North West England.

Though there has been considerable opposition from environmental groups and MPs to the recabling plans, a National Grid spokeswoman said the Government had raised no objections. Once the recabling project had been completed in 2011 the Victorian tunnel would be available for future rail use, she added.

The Northern Way has backed possible future rail use. Its transport director, John Jarvis, said: 'If National Grid relocates the electricity transmission lines from the Victorian Woodhead tunnels into the more recently constructed 1953 tunnel, it is essential that the option is kept open for the electricity lines to be put back again into the Victorian tunnels at some future date to provide for a new rail line across the Pennines via the 1953 tunnel'.

Responding to Jarvis's comments, the National Grid's spokeswoman said: 'That has been talked about but until there is a definite plan for a rail link, it's a discussion for a later date'.

Sheffield Star: Protest over plans for Woodhead tunnel (Richard Marsden)

An article from today's Sheffield Star about last Saturday's demonstration, by Richard Marsden:

One hundred protesters gathered at the end of the Woodhead tunnel to protest at plans to use it for electricity cables - dashing hopes that it could be reopened to trains.

Transport chiefs want to double rail services between Sheffield and Manchester in the next 15 years, meaning the route could be reopened to provide extra rail capacity across the Pennines.

But National Grid, which owns the tunnel, wants to move cables from two neighbouring tunnels, which are starting to collapse.

The protesters, who met at the western end of the tunnel, in the Peak District, are calling on the Government to intervene and block the plans.

Stocksbridge Green Party town councillor Dan Lyons was among the demonstrators.

He said: "Given the imperative of tackling climate change, it is unbelievable the Government is failing to keep the Woodhead option open.

"The Woodhead rail tunnel provides a cheaper and more sustainable alternative to the proposed A628 Mottram-Tintwistle bypass, which will cause major environmental and road safety problems."

The bypass aims to improve the western approach from Manchester to the A628 Woodhead Pass - but it is feared this would lead to tens of thousands more vehicles using the route, which would then thunder through South Yorkshire villages.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Manchester Evening News: Woodhead Fight Goes On

An article from today's Manchester Evening News about Saturday's demonstration:

An abandoned railway line came back to life as demonstrators took to the old track bed to prevent it disappearing for good.

Dozens walked more than six miles from Hadfield to the mouth of the famous Woodhead Tunnel to support a campaign to preserve it for a future reopening of the line between Manchester and Sheffield.

Power cables at the moment run through the old tunnel which was built in 1846 but they are at the end of their life. The old tunnel is in poor condition and was replaced by British Rail in 1954 but closed 30 years later.

Owners National Grid plan to relay the cables through the 1954 tunnel which would make it difficult ever to use it as a railway again.

Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly has refused to intervene but an alliance of politicians, green campaigners, and railway enthusiasts are fighting to save it.

North West MEP Chris Davies said afterwards: "How far behind the rest of the world does country have to go before ministers realise the need to plan for the future?"

Work is due to start soon on relaying the cables which carry electricity from the power stations of South Yorkshire to Manchester through two crumbling Victorian tunnels.

Protest organiser Jonathan Atkinson from Glossop said: "We are asking National Grid to maybe put a little bit more money into their plans to refurbish the Victoria tunnels to lay their new cables through there.

"If they are not willing to, we are calling on the government to step in and order an inquiry not only into what National Grid is doing but al so into the feasibility of reopening the tunnel for rail.

National Grid does not need planning permission but insists has consulted with all interested parties andthe Department for Transport and Network Rail said there were no plans to reopen the line.

A spokesman said that trains could not run through the tunnel alongside the 400 kv cables but the cables could eventually be removed if the government decided to reopen the tunnel.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Demonstration a huge success!

Many thanks to all of those who attended our demonstration today. There were 60+ people who came all the way to the site on a cold, winter afternoon to hear speakers supporting the campaign, to share stories about the railway and to pledge to try to stop National Grid's plans.


We know some of you came from as far afield as Bolton, Liverpool and Oxford to join with us and we are as humbled as we are impressed with the commitment shown by you.

Speakers included Chris Davies MEP, Peter Cranie (Green Party Euro candidate), Friends of the Peak District, Plane Stupid & High Peak Green Party as well as other concerned individuals. We had messages of support from Sheffield Friends of the Earth, the Campaign for Better Transport, Translink UK, and the Northern Way.


There are likely to be many media reports, as BBC TV, BBC Radio 4, High Peak Radio, the Manchester Evening News and other regional and local newspapers sent journalists and photographers. We will feature as many of them as we can here when they appear.

We would also welcome photographs and camcorder footage from anyone who was there for us to feature here. Thanks to four by three for the images used here.

If you would like more information about the campaign, please get in touch.

Bury Times: Woodhead Rail Tunnel Protest

An article from today's Bury Times about the demonstration at Woodhead:

Campaigners from Bolton will join dozens protesting against plans by the National Grid to lay cables through the main Woodhead rail tunnel today.

The tunnel provided a route between Manchester and Sheffield until it was closed in 1981.

Members of the Greater Manchester Transport Campaign believe that if the cables are laid, it is unlikely that the disused tunnel will ever be brought back into railway use.

They say the link could be vital to satisfy the growing cross-Pennine demand for freight and passenger travel.

A protest takes place at the tunnel's western mouth in Woodhead, Derbyshire, at 1pm.

The group is urging people to sign a petition calling for Transport Secretary and Bolton West MP Ruth Kelly to intervene to save the tunnel at:

The Journal: Old tunnel is key to high-speed rail link (Adrian Pearson)

An article from today's The Journal about the Northern Way's championing of Woodhead, by Adrian Pearson:

A railway tunnel beneath the Pennines could hold the secret to the North’s high-speed rail ambitions – but only if the Government acts now to save it.

Transport bosses are urging the Government to secure the Woodhead Tunnels passing under the Pennines in South Yorkshire, and are facing a battle with one of the world’s largest utilities companies for their future.

The Northern Way, a quango designed to lobby on behalf of the Northern development agencies, has joined campaigners calling on the Government to scrap plans by the National Grid to run electricity cables through the tunnels.

The line is owned by National Grid, which wants to divert cables from an older section of the three Woodhead Tunnels.

If the cables are diverted through the disused twin-track tunnel, it could ruin the Northern Way’s plans to have a railway line linking the North, both Newcastle and Manchester, with London on a high-speed track.

The Northern Way sent a compelling document to the Government last year outlining the huge economic benefits of such a route.

They estimated that a high-speed track would bring in more than £3.5bn to the North and up to £10bn nationally.

Neville Chamberlain, chair of the Northern Way, said: “Ultimately, if the future use of the Woodhead Tunnels for rail is not assured, the need to construct a major new tunnel across the Pennines could thwart the ambition of a new higher speed line ever happening.

“Additional, faster capacity across the Pennines will be critical to the economic future of the North.”

John Jarvis, the Northern Way’s transport director, said: “If National Grid relocates the electricity transmission lines as they are currently planning to do, it is essential that the option is kept open for the electricity lines to be put back again into the older tunnels at some future date to provide for a new rail line across the Pennines. We appreciate that in the absence of a specific proposal to reopen the Woodhead corridor for rail, the cost of losing the Woodhead Tunnel is difficult to measure.

“However it is likely, based on the work that the Northern Way has carried out to date, that a new higher speed rail route across the Pennines will need to be built in the next 15-30 years.

“Without the availability of the Woodhead Tunnels, this would involve large-scale, expensive tunnelling and would dramatically increase the costs to build any new rail line across the Pennines.”

Mr Jarvis has written to Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly urging her to keep all options – and tunnels – open for the North.

A Department for Transport spokesman said the Government was considering the options for Wood head Tunnel, but was unlikely to make any high-speed rail decisions before the next transport review in 2012.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Railstaff: People power resists cable plan (Graeme Bickerdyke)

An article from today's Railstaff (rail industry newspaper) about our campaign, by Graeme Bickerdyke:

A coalition of politicians, transport groups and environmental campaigners have come together to oppose the National Grid’s use of Woodhead New tunnel as a route for power cables.

The company owns all three of the disused railway tunnels which cut through the hills for three miles between Dunford Bridge in South Yorkshire and Longdendale in Derbyshire. Currently a 400kV supply, linking a power station near Doncaster with Greater Manchester, is carried inside one of two single bore Victorian structures. Despite an investment of £15million on repairs, these are in poor condition. With the cables almost life-expired, NG now intends to install new ones in an adjacent double track tunnel opened by British Rail as recently as 1954.

The National Grid has consulted with the government and was told that the tunnel would not be needed for future rail use.
Although freight traffic on Britain’s railways is expected to grow by almost 30% over the next decade, there are no plans to reinstate any old lines. Instead the capacity of our existing network will be increased. However both the Yorkshire Regional Transport Strategy and South Pennine Integrated Transport Study endorse the reinstatement of the Woodhead line which was closed controversially in 1981. Any future resurrection for freight use would effectively be scuppered by the National Grid’s work.

Two years ago, Translink proposed a £159million scheme to create a ‘rolling highway’ over the route, with lorries being piggy-backed on low-floor rail wagons. The company claimed that the number of HGVs using the notorious A628 road, which runs partly through the Peak District National Park, could have been cut by 90%. The idea was considered by the Highways Agency before opting for a bypass.

Politicians on both sides of the Pennines have voiced their opposition to NG’s plan. An Early Day Motion urging the government to intervene has been signed by 44 members of parliament. High Peak MP Tom Levitt said "As transport and climate change issues grow in importance and priority, the chance of taking thousands of tons of freight off our roads and putting it on rail on this important trans-Pennine route must be preserved."

Gwyneth Dunwoody MP, who chairs the Transport Select Committee told RailStaff that she would be “very disturbed if decisions were being taken which blocked off the development of a railway. I would always support anyone who wanted to protect a part of the system which might be needed for future use.”

Shortly before Christmas, local activists met to prepare a campaign against the cabling scheme and a rally was planned at Woodhead’s western portal on 12th January. “We understand completely that the National Grid has a commitment to provide electricity” said Anne Robinson of environmental pressure group Friends of the Peak District, “but the rail implications have not been fully thought through. It’s up to central government to step in and it’s taking a very short-sighted view. We need to be thinking big, long and hard - 20 years ahead, not five years.”

According to campaign co-ordinator Jonathan Atkinson, “It’s a really important issue in terms of future rail and freight services, the economic prosperity which would be brought to both sides of the Pennines and the bigger environmental challenges we face at the moment. Although it’s getting a green light from government, we believe there is a very strong case against the moves being taken here.”
Preparatory works in the tunnel should start this month, with the cables due to be installed during 2009.

Manchester Evening News: Bosses on board to save tunnel (Alan Salter)

An article from today's Manchester Evening News, by Alan Salter:

Transport chiefs have joined the campaign to save the famous Woodhead Tunnel.

Rail enthusiasts are trying to stop plans to lay electricity cables in the old trans-Pennine tunnel, which runs under the Peak District National Park.

They fear that if the plan goes ahead then it would spell the end to any hope of restoring the tunnel as a rail link between Manchester and Sheffield.

A protest is due to be held at the mouth of the tunnel tomorrow where campaigners will call on the National Grid to halt plans to run the cables through the tunnel.

Roger Jones, the chairman of the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority said he believed the Woodhead Tunnel should be kept clear in case it is needed for the rail network.

Coun Jones said: "The number of people travelling in and out of Greater Manchester continues to grow and the transport network is already running close to capacity.

"It's important that we explore all the options that are open to us to reduce the pressure on the network.

"One option worth considering is to reopen the Woodhead Tunnel line but National Grid's project could put an end to that".

Blackley MP Graham Stringer has already called on the government to intervene to prevent the `rail route being lost forever' and has the backing of 28 MPs.

There were two Woodhead Tunnels built on the route, with the first opening in 1845, and at their height there were used by 250 steam trains every day.

A new tunnel was built in 1953 for electric trains but was closed down in the 1980s.

Under the Electricity Act 1989, National Grid can press ahead with its plans without planning permission.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Demonstration update - media frenzy!

The samba band is confirmed, the messages of support are coming in from all over, and we hope the turnout will be high (or as high as possible for a 12 mile round trip!).

We have also had queries from many media organisations, including:

BBC 'Look North'
Channel M
Manchester Evening News/Guardian Media Group

In addition, BBC Radio 4's 'You & Yours' will be present, and are specifically looking to interview people who recall travelling on the line or better still worked on the line. Is this you? If so, please get in touch.

For full details of the demo, please see the previous post.

Glossop Chronicle: Bypass groups wrangle over Woodhead Tunnel (David Jones)

An article from today's Glossop Chronicle about our demonstration at Woodhead on 12th January, by David Jones:

Can National Grid's plans to push 400,000 volt cables through Woodhead Tunnel be scrapped and track re-opened for freight trains?

The nation's biggest power providers and Longdendale Siege boss Mike Flynn both say no.

But Save the Woodhead Tunnel and other Mottram to Tintwistle Bypass protestors, say yes.

And they are demanding a feasibility study be commissioned to see if the line can be re-opened - before the government spends more than £100m on the relief road. Protestors claim sending trains under the Pennines along the old Manchester to Sheffield line via Dinting and Hadfield will stop thousands of tonnes of CO2 funnelling into the air from bypass traffic.

And on Saturday they will be staging a climate changing demonstration at the Woodhead end of the tunnel from 1 pm to 3 pm.

There will be a samba band to liven things and an array of yet to be announced speakers.

Save the Woodhead Tunnel organisers are asking supporters to go along, either by walking or cycling, to the tunnel mouth along the six mile Longdendale Trail.

Or by car along the A628, turning down the steep approach road to the station.

But they warn that care is needed, the route is tricky and parking is limited.

Mr Flynn believes that however well intentioned some of the protesters are, they will be wasting their time.

He can see no possibility of the tunnel - closed in 1981 and the track bed to Hadfield turned into the Longdendale Trail - ever re-opening.

And he supports the need of the National Grid (sic) to remove their cables from the 'first' Victorian built tunnel which is deteriorating.

The thread them through the 'new' tunnel opened in the 1950s, which would prevent trains from using the tunnel.

"We have heard all the talk about re-opening the tunnel for trains before and it won't happen, it is just not feasible," he said.

"They (anti-bypass groups) talk about building a terminal at Hattersley where lorries can roll on and roll off, there is no chance.

"And if the tunnel did open again for trains, there would still be all that traffic coming through Glossop.

"The people who go on about opening Woodhead, never mention that."

Mr Flynn points to statements from the Government and Network Rail on transport plans covering the next 30 years which show no plans to re-open the tunnel.

He went on: "These people talk about a bypass ripping up the countryside, yet they make no mention of ripping up the Longdendale Trail to re-open the line.

"It's about time these protesters accepted what the vast majority of people in the valley want and that's a Longdendale Bypass and a Glossop Spur."

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Glossop Advertiser: Fight stepped up to save rail tunnel

An article from today's Glossop Advertiser about our plans for a demonstration at Woodhead this weekend:

Folk are being invited to a weekend demonstration to try and save the Woodhead Tunnel which green campaigners say is under threat of ‘permanent extinction.’

National Grid is proposing to re-cable power lines through the ‘new’ Woodhead Tunnel — built in 1954 — which green campaigners fear will rule it out forever as a possible low carbon, trans-Pennine freight and passenger route. The Woodhead Manchester-Sheffield rail route closed in 1981.

Emma Lawrence, of the campaign group Save Swallows Wood — a local beautyspot claimed to be under threat from the proposed Mottram-Tintwistle bypass — said: “The government is demonstrating gross hypocrisy on the issue. While claiming to be committed to cutting carbon emissions, they have refused to halt National Grid’s work yet are putting millions into airport expansion.

“We’re calling for National Grid to find an alternative and are campaigning to re-open the Woodhead rail route. We all now understand the need to fight climate change, yet this move will see a cheap, simple solution irretrievably lost.”

She said the demonstration — complete with a samba band — arose out of a meeting held at Bradbury House in Glossop before Christmas, which pulled together the activities of different campaign groups.

“There will be prepared statements from groups like the Campaign for Better Transport and Freight on Rail. A lot of MPs, councillors and rail groups are also supporting the campaign.”

The demo is set to run from 1-3pm on Saturday at the western entrance of the tunnel, off the A628.

It is 6.3 miles from Hadfield to the tunnel along the Longdendale Trail, which is the old railway trackbed or folk can travel along the Woodhead Road to join the trail.

There are also trains to and from Hadfield to Manchester every 30 minutes and hourly buses.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Glossop Advertiser: Campaign with Tunnel Vision (Tom Rowley)

An article about our campaign from today's Glossop Advertiser, by Tom Rowley:

A campaign is underway to save one of the nation’s most famous railway tunnels.

The future of the Woodhead Tunnel, which runs underneath the Peak District National Park, is under threat as owners National Grid want to lay new electricity cables through it.

Campaigners fear new power lines could mean the tunnel will never be part of the rail network again.

Cables carrying power to Manchester from Sheffield already run through the old tunnel — laid there to stop pylons spoiling the view — but they are at the end of their life.

Local protesters have formed an action group and are organising a petition. Opponents of the proposed Tintwistle and Mottram bypass have also long argued that a reopened tunnel carrying freight would be a better alternative than building a new road, saving hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

Glossop resident Jonathan Atkinson, co-ordinating of the new campaign, said: "It is a very winnable campaign. We just want the work delayed until a feasibility study can be done."

The campaign will culminate in a demonstration — including a samba band — at the western entrance of the tunnel, off the A628, from 1pm-3pm on Saturday, 12 January.

A National Grid spokeswoman said work will start later this month and take until 2011 to be completed. She said the company did not need planning permission ‘but has consulted with all interested parties’.

She said trains could not run alongside the 400kv cables, but these could be removed if the tunnel was to re-open.

The Department for Transport and Network Rail had said there were no plans to re-open the line.

Politicians of all parties on both sides of the Pennines are backing the fight. Transport overlord Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority wants more railway capacity and chairman Councillor Roger Jones said: "I support waiting until a full feasibility study can be done."

The old tunnel, built in 1846, is in a poor condition and was replaced by British Rail in 1951. The route was closed 30 years later.