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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Glossop Chronicle: Not the end of the line

Another overly-optimistic article, this time from today's Glossop Chronicle, about politicians statements on Woodhead, by David Jones:

A government minister has signalled the green light for trains to again run through Woodhead Tunnel.

Re-opening the link under the Pennines seemed a non-starter when the National Grid announced plans to string power lines through it.

But in a House of Commons debate, Transport Secretary Rosie Winterton hinted that trains could be on track sometime in the future.

She told MPs: “National Grid’s plans will not jeopardise the possibility that the Woodhead Tunnel will reopen to rail traffic at some future date.”

It was a response that delighted Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith, who sponsored the debate, and Tom Levitt.

High Peak’s MP - who also took part in the discussion - said: “This is a victory for common sense and forward thinking. Our task now is to demonstrate to government and Network Rail that Woodhead is not only a possible option but the best option for improving Trans-Pennine freight movement.”

The news means that measures will effectively be put in place to make sure that any reopening of the Woodhead Tunnel as a railway link is not jeopardised by National Grid’s plans.

National Grid’s proposals to transfer their high voltage cables from the Victorian tunnels to the 1953 tunnel will carry on.

But in such a way that they won’t stop trains travelling through the tunnel sometime in the future. The power company will complete their work in 2010 or 2011.

From that point the older tunnels will no longer have a use but will continue to be inspected and maintained.

This will ensure that if and when the 1953 tunnel is required for the reinstallation of a rail track, the high voltage cables can be transferred back into the older tunnels in a cost effective way.

The Transport Minister’s statement marks a successful outcome by those who think a rail link through Woodhead Tunnel could boost the economies of the North West and Yorkshire.

Campaigners, backed by Mr Levitt and many Glossopdale residents, believe that rail freight is the best environmental option for carrying in bulk.