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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.