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Friday, 25 January 2008

Ruth Kelly on Woodhead

Tuesday 22nd January saw Angela Smith (MP for Sheffield Hillsborough) take the opportunity to ask questions of the Secretary of State for Transport, Ruth Kelly, in the House of Commons. Below are details of the exchange (also recorded on this page on

Angela Smith: I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend is committed to developing the use of rail for freight. She will be aware that many Members of this House share the ambition of the Northern Way to reopen the Woodhead line, not least because doing so would offer us the opportunity to carry more freight by rail in the north. Will she therefore commit to ensuring that the National Grid Company does not use the 1953 Woodhead tunnel for its recabling work, because doing so would dash completely any hope that we have of reopening that line for freight?

Ruth Kelly: My hon. Friend makes her point in her own way, but it is important that we keep as many options open as possible. I have had contact with the National Grid Company about this, and I think that two points are true. First, it owns the tunnel and can invest in its own cabling in the tunnel. Secondly, it has assured us that even if it did that, it would not preclude reopening the tunnel for freight traffic were the growth of freight traffic to warrant it. I am committed to ensuring that we work with the National Grid Company to keep all options on the table.

It is important to note three fundamental errors in Ruth Kelly's statement, both of which were explained to us by National Grid themselves at our meeting with them on 14th January. Firstly, the 1953 tunnel will definitely be put beyond use for anything but cabling. There were no plans on behalf of National Grid to allow concurrent use of the tunnel for cabling and rail traffic. Indeed, part of their motivation for using the 1953 tunnel was to ensure that future expansion of cabling capacity, which they said would be needed for the projected growth in demand for electricity supply, would be possible.

Secondly, they reported to us that since the new cables that would be installed had a 40 year 'asset life', the tunnel could only be available for use by trains in 40 years time. The implication was that they would want compensation from anyone who wanted to use the tunnel, and this was latterly explicitly stated by them.

Thirdly, they stated plainly that once they had moved cables from the Victorian tunnels, that these tunnels would not be maintained and would in fact be sealed up for good. They clearly do not intend to stand any of the costs that may be necessary to maintain the old tunnels.

We will have our own response to Ruth Kelly's statement in due course...


Yer Dad said...

Ruth Kelly's incompetence in every government job she has had is legendary. She probably lacks the basic intelligence needed to understand issues such as these.