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Friday, 25 January 2008

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.