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Thursday, 24 January 2008

Rail Professional: Woodhead protestors fight to stop power cables being laid through rail tunnel

An article from the February 2008 edition of 'Rail Professional' about our demonstration on 12th January:

Protestors gathered at the entrance of the Woodhead tunnel in Derbyshire in January to highlight the plight of the closed Manchester to Sheffield railway line. There has been a campaign for the tunnel to re-open to carry either freight or high-speed trains.

But plans to run high-voltage power cables through the tunnel, which cuts through the Pennines, could spell the end of the hopes of campaigners to see the railway re-opened.

MEP Chris Davies, one of the campaign’s supporters, told demonstrators: ‘We are standing on the track bed of what I believe is the only electrified main line in Europe ever to have been closed. He added: ‘Where we are standing should be the pathway of the main high-speed line to the north west of England. We have 68 miles of high-speed line in this country to the Channel Tunnel from St Pancras. France already has 1,000 miles of 186mph railway.’

Aside from high-speed trains, other proposals for the old line have included using trains to carry lorries along it, in the same way as they are taken through the Channel Tunnel, to take the burden off surrounding roads. The first Woodhead tunnel was built in 1846 as part of the Woodhead Line, which carried coal from Sheffield to Manchester, and a second was soon added. A third tunnel was built in 1954 to house an electrified track, but closed in the 1980s, because the industries the trains catered for were in decline.

Owners National Grid already use one of the old tunnels to relay cables, but are planning to lay new ones in the 1954 tunnel. Trains could not run through the tunnel alongside the 400 kv cables.