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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'.