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Thursday, 27 December 2007

Manchester Eevening News: Campaign for tunnel vision (Alan Salter)

An article from today's Manchester Evening News about the growing campaign against closure of the Woodhead Tunnel, by Alan Salter:

A campaign has been launched to try to save one of the nation's most famous railway tunnels.

The future of the Woodhead Tunnel, which runs underneath the Peak District National Park, is under threat as owners National Grid want to lay new electricity cables through it.

Campaigners fear new power lines could mean that the tunnel will never be part of the rail network again.

Cables carrying power to Manchester from Sheffield already run through the old tunnel - laid there to stop pylons spoiling the view - but they are at the end of their life.

The old tunnel. built in 1846, is in poor condition and was replaced by British Rail in 1951, but the route was closed down 30 years later.

Now an alliance of politicians led by Blackley MP Graham Stringer, green campaigners and rail enthusiasts are involved in a race against time to try to preserve it for future rail use.

The campaign will culminate in a demonstration at the mouth of the tunnel on January 12.

Mr Stringer has called on the government to intervene to prevent the `rail route being lost forever'.

It has been signed by 28 Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Mr Stringer said: "It would be very difficult to get the tunnel open to rail again once the cables have gone in."

Politicians on both sides of the Pennines are backing the fight. Transport overlord GMPTA wants more railway capacity and chairman Coun Roger Jones said: "I support waiting until a full feasibility study can be done."

Lib Dem leader Coun Richard Knowles said: "It would make an awful lot of sense to keep the option of reopening it."

Local protesters have formed an action group and are organising a petition. Co-ordinator Jonathan Atkinson, from Glossop, said: "It is a very winnable campaign. We just want the work delayed until a feasibility study can be done."

A National Grid spokeswoman said work will start in January and take until 2011. to finish. She said the company did not need planning permission `but has consulted with all interested parties'. The Department for Transport and Network Rail had said there were no plans to reopen the line.

She said trains could not run alongside the 400kv cables, but these could be removed if the tunnel was to reopen.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Demonstrate to Save the Woodhead Tunnel! - Saturday, January 12th 2008

We have organised a demonstration to further our campaign. The details are as follows:

Date: Saturday, 12th January 2008

Time: 1.00 p.m. until 3.00 p.m.

Place: Woodhead tunnel, Western entrance (click here for a map)

We hope to have speakers (to be confirmed) plus Samba bands. We can also now confirm that television and newspaper journalists will be present. All we need now is clement weather!

If you are an organisation/representative but cannot attend, please send us a message of support which we will read out at the rally.

People who wish to come are asked to make their own way to the tunnel, preferably using the Longdendale Trail (the old trackbed) travelling on foot or bicycle, but you can also travel along the B6105 to join the Trail if you can get a lift. Alternatively, you can drive to the site itself, turning off the A628. Parking is limited and the roads are precarious - please ensure that your own and others safety is paramount.

If you wish to walk or cycle the full distance, the best place to join the demo is at either the bus stop or Railway Station in Hadfield. There are regular trains to and from Manchester every 30 minutes, and hourly buses. The route from Hadfield to Woodhead is 6.3 miles long, and although the trail is completely level, you must be reasonably fit to walk and cycle there and back.

A map of the route is here.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Sheffield Star: Protest over power line in rail tunnel (Mark Hookham)

An article from today's Sheffield Star about growing political disquiet over National Grid's plans for the tunnel, by Mark Hookham:

Ministers are facing mounting pressure from MPs to scrap plans to run a huge electricity power line through the disused Woodhead railway tunnel linking Sheffield with Manchester.
Campaigners say the Government-approved plans by National Grid to plant the cables in the trans-Pennine tunnel would prevent the route, which has been closed since the 1980s, from ever being reopened.

Under Sheffield's Economic Masterplan - the 15-year blueprint for the city's development - better rail links across the Pennines are crucial.

Now 21 MPs, including Sheffield Hillsborough's Angela Smith, have signed a parliamentary motion demanding the Government intervene and "prevent this strategic rail route being lost forever".

Ms Smith told The Star: "We want to be sure the short term interests of the National Grid do not compromise the long term interests of the Northern economy."

Graham Stringer, the MP for Blackley in Manchester who tabled the Early Day Motion, added: "If we are going to increase rail capacity we have to reopen lines like the Woodhead tunnel.

"Without doing that, we cannot reach any of the projections the Government is predicting."

There are three separate tunnels on the Woodhead route, between Woodhead in Derbyshire and Dunford Bridge, near Penistone.

At the time of its completion in 1845, Woodhead 1 was one of the world's longest railway tunnels at a length of three miles and 13 yards.

The construction of the tunnel claimed the lives of 26 men, injured another 140, and cost more than three times the original estimate of £60,000.

The last passenger train used the route in 1970 and it closed to freight trains in 1981.

Professor David Begg, of the Northern Way economic development group, said the future of disused rail infrastructure was "critical" in the economic future of the region.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the Government had no plans to reopen existing lines but "would not rule out strong proposals".

Friday, 14 December 2007

Meeting announcement - Tuesday 18th December, 7.00 p.m., Bradbury Community House, Glossop

We have organised a meeting for those who wish to become involved in our campaign. It is to be held at Bradbury Community House (Market Street, Glossop, Derbyshire, SK13 8AR) on Tuesday 18th December, commencing at 7.00 p.m.

The purpose of the meeting is primarily to hear more information about the situation and to debate and formulate ideas and action to keep the Woodhead Tunnel open for what it was built for - trains and not cables.

We look forward to meeting you there.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

The Guardian: Dormant lines could ease rail congestion, say campaigners (Dan Milmo)

An article from today's Guardian about a call for resurrecting dormant railway lines, such as Woodhead, by Dan Milmo:

The future growth of Britain's congested rail network, on which passengers make 1 billion journeys a year, is under threat from plans to dig up mothballed lines, MPs and green campaigners have warned.

Satisfying record demand for train travel will depend on the preservation of disused routes for new lines, according to a coalition of politicians and environmentalists who are fighting to keep the decommissioned lines. The government's recent rail white paper emphasised using only the existing network to meet predicted growth of 3% a year by 2014. However, passenger growth is increasing at double that rate, prompting warnings that dormant routes will be needed.

A political row is brewing over the Sheffield to Manchester Woodhead line, which shadows one of Britain's busiest rail routes and was taken out of service in 1981. The government has approved plans by National Grid to plant electricity cables in a tunnel in the Peak District, which would prevent the line from being reopened, campaigners say.

Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, Manchester, expects more than 100 parliamentary colleagues to back his early day motion against the move. He said it would be "extremely difficult" to accommodate the millions of extra passengers on the railway by 2030 if disused lines were redeveloped. "If we are going to increase rail capacity we have to reopen lines like the Woodhead tunnel. Without doing that, we cannot reach any of the projections that the government is predicting."

Professor David Begg, of the Northern Way economic development group, said the future of disused rail infrastructure was "critical" in the economic future of the region. "If the Woodhead tunnel is not available it will cost dramatically more to build rail capacity across the Pennines."

Other disused lines campaigners want reopened are Oxford to Milton Keynes, the Leamside line in the north-east and the Lewes to Uckfield line in East Sussex.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said the government had no plans to reopen existing lines but "would not rule out strong proposals".

Read the original article on the Guardian website

Saturday, 8 December 2007

First leafletting today

Activists from the group took the opportunity today to distribute leaflets and talk with Glossop residents at the Christmas Celebration held by Friends of Glossop Train Station. It was clear that many people do not know about the threat posed to the tunnel (even people who work in the Rail industry!), but despite that, the response to the campaign was overwhelmingly positive.

Furthermore, High Peak MP Tom Levitt was present, and pledged to activists that he will sign the Early Day Motion.

We have a print-ready PDF of our leaflet available for download here. Please feel free to print this off and distribute it wherever you are.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Parliamentary Early Day Motion to stop National Grid's plans

Graham Stringer, the MP for Manchester Blackley, introduced an Early Day Motion (EDM) to Parliament this Tuesday protesting about the plans of National Grid for Woodhead. It reads as follows:

"That this House believes that, at a time when the Government Rail White Paper endorses the strategic freight network and forecasts rail usage doubling over 30 years, National Grid's proposal to embark upon a cabling project through the Woodhead Tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield would mean an irrevocable loss of rail capacity; and therefore calls upon the Government to investigate and intervene on this issue as a matter of urgency to prevent this strategic rail route being lost forever"

An Early Day Motion is a motion for debate. They are not usually openly debated in the House of Commons, but remain open for signature in the current parliamentary session.

So far, the EDM - number 459 of the 2007/2008 session - has attracted the signature of 9 MPs, although none from the constituencies that Woodhead runs through or is next to. We believe this is only a matter of time, but we would expect that the MP for High Peak, Tom Levitt, will sign, as the Eastern end of the tunnel is wholly within his constituency of High Peak and he has previously stated his support for the reopening of the line.

Please write to your MP - whomever they may be - asking them to sign the Early Day Motion.

Woodhead Tunnel - video

Below is a short video from Youtube of the Woodhead Tunnel entrance and the Station as they exist today. When one watches this, it's difficult to accept that a purpose built facility like this remains unused and stands threatened with permanent closure.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Save the Woodhead Tunnel!

The Woodhead Manchester-Sheffield rail route, closed since 1981, is under threat of permanent extinction. But it can still be saved with your help.

Against the wishes of the Peak District National Park and local MPs, National Grid are proposing to re-cable their power lines through the (new) 1954 Woodhead tunnel and eliminate forever this low carbon, trans-Pennine freight and passenger route. We’re calling for National Grid to find an alternative and campaigning to re-open the Woodhead rail route.

We all now understand the need to fight climate change yet this move will see a cheap, simple solution irretrievably lost.

5 reasons why the Woodhead Tunnel shouldn’t be used for cabling

1. It makes sense in Climate Change terms
The Woodhead line could save 100,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year by carrying freight that would otherwise go by road. The gradient on the line means a carbon neutral system of regenerative braking power can be used.

2. It would be simple to do
Not only is there a clear demand for a trans-Pennine rail link but much of the track infrastructure still exists. All that is needed is the will to make it happen.

3. It would be cheap
Re-opening the rail-freight link would cost an estimated £139m– an amount that will be re-couped in just one year of operation.

4. There are simple alternatives open to National Grid
National Grid is a multi-million pound company which can afford to seek an alternative solution, such as refurbishing the existing smaller (Victorian era) tunnel at Woodhead. It’s the least they can do considering their significant carbon footprint.

5. Re-opening the line will benefit everyone
Another Manchester-Sheffield line will transfer freight from road to rail and create a passenger line that would take people from Hadfield-Sheffield in just 15 minutes.

Good for the environment, good for the local economy.

4 simple things you can do to campaign for the tunnel

1. We are all volunteers, donate to our campaign to keep it running.

2. Keep up to date with our campaign by signing up to our newsletter.

3. Get involved in the Save the Woodhead Tunnel campaign and help make your voice heard - send us an email if you want to find out more, including details of forthcoming meetings. Download our leaflet here & print off copies for distribution to as many people as you can. You can write to us at: Save The Woodhead Tunnel, PO Box 367, Hyde, Cheshire, SK14 4WD.

4. Write to Philip Hammond MP, Secretary of State for Transport asking him to save the route (Department for Transport, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR).

Sheffield Star: Power line plan throws doubt on Woodhead line (Richard Marsden)

An article from today's Sheffield Star about National Grid's plans for the Woodhead tunnel, by Richard Marsden:

Doubts have been cast over improvement plans for Sheffield's rail link with Manchester - with the chance of reopening the Woodhead line in jeopardy and concern improvements to existing services may be unworkable.

Stocksbridge councillor Martin Brelsford is proposing a motion at today's meeting of Sheffield Council expressing "dismay" at proposals to use the disused Woodhead Tunnel for a power line.

The route has been closed since the 1980s but could be reopened to allow extra services.

Under Sheffield's Economic Masterplan - the 15-year blueprint for the city's development - better rail links across the Pennines are vital.

Coun Brelsford is calling on the council to ask National Grid to make sure trains can still run through the tunnel despite the power line - and request a feasibility study into reopening Woodhead.

The Department for Transport cannot prevent the power line because Woodhead Tunnel is now owned by National Grid. A spokesman said there are "no current plans" to reopen the line but would not rule it out in the future.

David Young, of SYPTE, said Sheffield needs four trains an hour to Manchester in the long-term - which could require a second line such as Woodhead - but more seats on existing services was the immediate aim.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Our supporters...

We have received many messages of support from individuals and/or organisations since we launched the campaign, either directly or indirectly, and a list is below along with a link to any relevant website.

Angela Smith MP (Sheffield Hillsborough)
ASLEF, Crewe Branch
Bolton Clarion Cycling Club
Bury Friends of the Earth
Campaign for Better Transport (Transport 2000)
CANBER (Campaign Against New Beeching Report)
Central Railway
Chris Davies MEP
Councillor Andrew Garner (Lib Dem, Prestwich)
Councillor Ann Garner (Lib Dem, Prestwich)
Councillor Anthony McKeown (Labour, High Peak)
Councillor Dan Lyons (Green Party, Stocksbridge Town Council)
Councillor Hazel Lees (Lib Dem, Bredbury Green & Romiley)
Councillor Mick Jameson (previous chairman of SYPTA)
Councillor Richard Knowles (opposition leader GMPTA)
Councillor Roger Jones (chairman of GMPTA)
Councillor Tim Pickstone (Lib Dem, Bury)
Freight On Rail
Friends of the Peak District
Glossop Respect
Greater Manchester Campaign Against Climate Change
Glossop Road Alert
High Peak Friends of the Earth
High Peak Green Party
Manchester Climate Action
Manchester Friends of the Earth
Manchester Green Party
Marc Lewis, Strategy Planning Manager, London Underground Limited
National Clarion Cycling Club 1895
Nick Clegg MP (Lib Dem leader & Sheffield Hallam MP)
Peter Cranie (Green Party Euro Candidate, NW Region)
Philip Taylor (former Chair, Minsters' Rail Campaign)
Plane Stupid
Save Swallow's Wood
Shrewsbury to Powys Rail Passenger Association (SARPA)
Sheffield Friends of the Earth
Stockport Friends of the Earth
Stop the A57/A628 Bypass
Tameside Green Party
(The) Northern Way (Northern Regional Development Agencies collaborative project)
Tintwistle & Hadfield Residents Association
Tom Levitt MP
Warrington Friends of the Earth

If you would like us to add you or your organisation, please get in touch.