Join our Re-open the Woodhead Line for just £10 a year (£5 concessions) to support our work and have a say in how our group works.

Subscribe here!

We need your support.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Manchester Evening News: 'Save tunnel' plea to Blears (Alan Salter)

An article from today's Manchester Evening News about an attempt to ask Hazel Blears MP to intervene in the ongoing Woodhead campaign, by Alan Salter:

Campaigners hoping to save the historic Woodhead rail tunnel are calling on Salford MP Hazel Blears to intervene.

National Grid is preparing to lay new electricity cables through the tunnel, which would make it difficult for trains to pass through ever again. British Rail ended using the route in 1984.

As a utility, National Grid does not need planning permission and the Department for Transport and the Peak National Park have decided not to intervene.

But the campaign to save the tunnel for future rail use between Manchester and Sheffield is gathering momentum.

Now Communities and Local Government Secretary Mrs Blears is being asked to step in and do what her fellow Greater Manchester MP, Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, will not.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority chairman Coun Roger Jones - a member of Salford council, where Mrs Blears once served - has written to ask if she will to order an investigation into the tunnel's future.

More than 140 people have contacted their MPs, asking them to sign a parliamentary petition, and 59 MPs have already signed a motion from Blackley MP Graham Stringer protesting at the move.

He is applying for an Adjournment Debate, so that a minister would have to answer MPs' questions on the issue for an hour and a half.

The Northern Way, a coalition of the three Northern Regional Development Agencies, has joined the call for the line to be protected, arguing that additional rail capacity across the Pennines will be critical to the economic future of the North.

Dozens of local campaigners have already protested at the mouth of the tunnel earlier this month.

Coun Jones's letter says: "The Woodhead route between the two conurbations provides the opportunity to increase the capacity of the rail network, in the medium to long term, at relatively low cost, providing the alignment (including these tunnels) is kept available for use."

It adds: "I propose that National Grid and Network Rail should conduct a joint study into the likely long-term requirements of both the electricity and rail industries."

A spokesman at Mrs Blears office said that the Department for Transport would reply.