Tuesday, March 11, 2014

News: Trans-Pennine connectivity under review

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Consultation work is taking place to explore the options for improving trans-Pennine road links between the Sheffield City Region and Greater Manchester.

The Department of Transport (DfT) and stakeholders on both sides of the Pennines are looking at the issue, seen as key to the economic fortunes of the North, given the DfT's imminent procurement of a feasibility study to look at trans-Pennine connectivity.

It follows a meeting earlier this year between the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Hammond MP, and regional key figures including Members of Parliament from both side of the Pennines, the leaders of Sheffield and Rotherham councils, representatives from Barnsley Council and chambers of trade and commerce representatives.

The delegation agreed that a Department for Transport (DfT) feasibility study into trans-Pennine routes needed to be in-depth and encompass wider economic impacts including the clustering of businesses and labour supply markets. The delegates also agreed the feasibility study should look at the whole corridor between the M1 in South Yorkshire and the M67 in Greater Manchester.

It is understood the government aims to complete the study in the latter half of 2014 to coincide with the publication of its Road Investment Strategy at the time of the Autumn Statement.

A report to Barnsley Council said: "With High Speed Rail providing good north-south connectivity in the future, good east-west connectivity must also be provided to complete the triangle of connectivity between Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield City Regions to maximise the agglomeration effects between the three economic areas.

"The seriousness of the problems of the existing Woodhead Pass corridor are such that a piecemeal approach to making improvements along the corridor is no longer an option, as existing problems of congestion, air quality, road safety will simply be transferred to other parts of the route. A new approach therefore needs to be considered to provide a new viable route across the Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester City Regions."

Whilst rail connectivity is set to be improved through the £600m Northern Hub programme of targeted upgrades to the railway in the North of England, the existing Woodhead Pass corridor, with all of its problems, is the only real option for all vehicle classes.

In 2012 an independent report by consultants URS identified a combined economic benefit of a 15-minute journey time saving over 60 years of £1.2 billion. In July 2009 the Highways Agency withdrew a proposed scheme for a bypass between Mottram and Tintwhistle after estimated costs climbed from £200m to £300m.



Images: Highways Agency

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