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Monday, 25 February 2008

Save the Woodhead Tunnel Press Release: Ruth Kelly invites the campaign to contribute to Transport White Paper

Campaigners fighting to secure Woodhead new tunnel for future railway use have been asked to contribute to the consultation process on a key government White Paper, ‘Transport Challenges’, aiming to develop a sustainable transport system. The invitation was made by Secretary of State Ruth Kelly following the reopening of Salford Central station on 22nd February 2008.

Ms Kelly spoke with members of the ‘Save the Woodhead Tunnel’ group who were demonstrating at the ceremony against the National Grid’s use of the tunnel as a cable run for trans-Pennine power cables. NG’s project will make it difficult and expensive to reopen the former Woodhead railway route - something which environmental, transport and business groups see as increasingly necessary. Freight traffic between east and west coast ports is expected to rise significantly over the next 20 years. Without a new line across the Pennines, that traffic will have to be carried on congested roads as the existing rail network is already operating close to capacity.

Jonathan Atkinson, one of the campaign’s coordinators, told Ms Kelly that there should be “a full, open and democratic investigation into what is happening. At the moment, the National Grid is just taking a decision in the interests of shareholders.”

Ruth Kelly told campaigners that “I want to take the decision that’s best on this” and recognised the views being expressed by a broad coalition of stakeholders that “Woodhead tunnel could be valuable in the future”. She accepted that “we’ve got to get the position right. If there is a case [for reopening the line], we’ll make sure that the Woodhead tunnel can still be used.”

Formal consultation on the White Paper will take place between May and July before publication of the final ‘Transport Challenges’ document in January 2009.