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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.