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.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Manchester Evening News: Woodhead Tunnel decision delayed

An article from today's Manchester Evening News about the latest political statements regarding Woodhead, by Alan Salter:

The government has deferred a decision on reviving Woodhead Tunnel as a rail route - saying it has not seen a need to re-open the tunnel to trains so far.

The decision will now be made in three years.

Train enthusiasts launched a campaign to preserve the trans-Pennine tunnel, a route which linked Manchester and Sheffield, after plans were announced to lay electricity cables inside. The campaigners fear this will spell the end for any hopes of reviving the Woodhead Tunnel as a rail route in the future.

In a debate on the tunnel in the Commons, Sheffield Hillsborough MP Angela Smith said: "Rail passenger numbers are growing faster in the north than in the rest of the country and there is increasing demand for rail freight.

"The Woodhead rail route offers the most cost-efficient option for building trans-Pennine capacity in the long term." Transport Minister Rosie Winterton said campaigners had nothing to fear about the plans to lay the cables but indicated that the government was not convinced of a need to keep the tunnel open.

She said: "National Grid's plans will not jeopardise the possibility that the Woodhead tunnel route will reopen to rail traffic at some future date."

She said the government would consider any fresh evidence in favour of supporting the preservation of the Woodhead Tunnel and a final decision will be made in 2011 when the National Grid plans to seal up the tunnel. If the government decides that there may be future need for a rail link, the National Grid would be required to carry on maintaining the abandoned tunnel and stop it from deteriorating.

However, the minister added: "No government or rail industry strategy or planning document has identified a need for additional rail capacity across the Pennines that would require the reopening of the Woodhead route."

An Early Day Motion calling on the government to intervene and `prevent this strategic rail route being lost forever' has been signed by more than 70 MPs from all parties.