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Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Longdendale Integrated Transport Strategy (LITS) consultation submission

Re-open the Woodhead Line made an official submission to Tameside Council's Longdendale Integrated Transport Strategy (LITS) consultation. Here is the text of that submission:

FAO the Program Officer,

I am writing to you as the Chair of Re-open the Woodhead Line campaign group and on behalf of the group, in response to your ‘Initial Public Consultation & Participation’ regarding the proposed Longdendale Integrated Transport Strategy (LITS).

Our comments relate to how the proposed transport strategy intends to include improvements to rail services and rail infrastructure.

We have two particular concerns. First, you suggest that the railway line between Hattersley and Hadfield/Glossop would have increased frequency of rail services. However, there is neither any technical detail nor any explanation as to how or indeed, whether this could be actually achieved. Whilst we would generally support rail improvements such lack of detail and explanation renders it difficult to make an informed choice.

More importantly, we note that the re-opening of the Woodhead Line is not contained within any of your proposed Options, not even as part of any long term strategy. In fact it does not even rate a mention either as a component within an Option or within the accompanying literature.

Within the context of what is purported to be an integrated strategy for Longdendale, this seems like a glaring and indeed an extraordinary omission, given both the popularity and the cost effectiveness of implementing this measure.

The railway line between Manchester and Sheffield, via Woodhead, was part of the first electrified main line railway in Britain.  The central section of less than 20 miles in length was closed to passenger and freight traffic in 1981. 

Reinstatement of this relatively short section of line would vastly improve the connectivity of the rail network throughout the whole of Northern England and also significantly benefit the wider network.

As there has previously been major investment in the infrastructure of the line, particularly in the three- mile long Woodhead tunnel, re-opening the line represents an opportunity to enhance transport infrastructure both cost effectively and in a relatively short timescale.
A re-opened Woodhead line offers the following key benefits: 
1. Reduced Environmental Impact  
- A potential 70% reduction in CO2 emissions from people and freight crossing the Peak District National Park using rail rather than road transport.  
- Reduced road traffic in the National Park as a result of moving more freight to rail. 
- A consequential reduction in accidents on trans-Pennine roads. 
2. Reduced Journey Times 
- Research suggests that the current typical journey time between Manchester and Sheffield could be reduced from 55 minutes to 35 minutes.  
- Re-opening the line would provide a much faster rail route between the main East and West coast ports and relieve congestion on the current rail network around Sheffield. 
3. Improved Accessibility 
- Greater public transport access could be provided to the Dark Peak area of the National Park for non-car users, cyclists and the disabled, where current provision is very poor. 
- New connectivity between South Yorkshire and the eastern suburbs of Manchester and Longdendale would result. The line would open up new opportunities for employment, leisure and inward investment in the communities that it would link. 
- Integration with proposed new high speed rail services to / from London and Europe would provide lower carbon journey alternatives to flying.  
4. Improved Reliability 
- An important diversionary route in the case of engineering works or incidents on the over-burdened line through the Hope Valley. This would remove the need for the current arrangements when the Hope Valley line is closed, whereby rail passengers are transferred to buses for the journey between Sheffield and Manchester with the consequence of longer journey times and disruption due to bad weather. 
- A generally more resilient route for freight and passengers crossing the Pennines during the winter months. 
For all of these reasons we feel that the re-opening of the Woodhead Line should be integral to any transport strategy for the area and that this important railway line should play a mandatory role within the context of any integrated transport strategy for Longdendale and its environs.
Yours sincerely, 
David Bryson
Chair, Re-open the Woodhead Line Campaign