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Wednesday, 16 January 2008

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."