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Monday, 10 March 2008

Oldham Evening Chronicle: Looking for light at end of the tunnel

An article from Today's Oldham Evening Chronicle about tomorrow's Adjournment Debate about Woodhead, by Alan Salter:

The fate of the Woodhead Tunnel underneath the Peak District is to be debated in parliament.

Manchester MP Graham Stringer launched the campaign to protect the rail route between Manchester and Sheffield and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly promised she would.

Oldham MEP Chris Davies joined the campaign and now Sheffield MP Angela Smith has secured an adjournment debate on “Woodhead rail route and options for its future” for tomorrow.

The move has delighted protesters who have been asked to contribute to the consultation on a key government White Paper, “Transport Challenges” to develop a sustainable transport system.

The invitation was made by Bolton MP Ms Kelly herself after speaking with members of the “Save the Woodhead Tunnel” group who were demonstrating at the opening of the refurbished Salford Central station. After the transport secretary had left, the campaigners were given goody bags which had been handed out to passengers and VIPs to mark the occasion.

Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority, which funded most of the £5 million work at Salford, is supporting the campaign against National Grid’s use of the tunnel as a cable run for trans-Pennine power cables which would make it difficult and expensive to reopen the rail route.

Jonathan Atkinson, one of the campaign’s co-ordinators, told Ms Kelly that there should be “a full, open and democratic investigation into what is happening”

The transport secretary delighted the group by promising: “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.

An early day motion put down by Mr Stringer calling on the Government to intervene and “prevent this strategic rail route being lost for ever” has been signed by 73 MPs.