Friday, August 19, 2016

News: Routes shortlisted for potential Trans-Pennine tunnel

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Five routes have been shortlisted for a potential Trans-Pennine tunnel that would address the journey times between Manchester and Sheffield. The Government has described the project as "the most ambitious road scheme undertaken in the UK in more than five decades."

Consultation work began in 2014 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 looked at the issue, seen as key to the economic fortunes of the North, with the DfT procuring a feasibility study to look at connectivity.

The Woodhead Pass corridor, with all of its problems, is the only real option for all vehicle classes. A tunnel could be a national first and almost halve journey times between the two cities.

The first report outlined the high level case for the Trans-Pennine tunnel road scheme and feasibility of constructing a new road link. Further studies examine the strategic options for the tunnel, to understand the viability, costs and deliverability of the scheme. Work has also been carried out on the strategic and economic case for the connection.

Five shortlisted routes join the M60 east of Manchester to the M1 north of Sheffield, with four options starting at the M67, and will see journeys cut by 30 minutes.

Transport for the North (TfN) - which brings together representatives from across the North - would like to see the journey times between Sheffield to Manchester, and Sheffield and Leeds, reduced to 30 minutes.

The tunnel could provide an economic boost to the two cities as well as the surrounding area. The link would help protect the environment by reducing traffic through the Peak District National Park, as well as support the Government's plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.

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The report said that it is at too early a stage in the design of the scheme to present robust analysis on any of the economic costs and benefits but initial modelling suggests that there could be the potential for significant benefits relating to reduced travel times, improvements in reliability and the potential to attract further inward investment.

Costs could run way into the billions for a scheme that "will include a tunnel (or series of tunnels) that could be longer than any road tunnel constructed in Europe to date."

John Cridland, Chairman of Transport for the North, said: "The study shows a tunnel beneath the Pennines would both boost the economy of the region, and potentially benefit the environment of the Peak District by reducing traffic in the national park.

"This is just one of the visionary projects Transport for the North is working on, as well as other schemes, such as Northern Powerhouse Rail [HS3], as we continue to develop a Transport & Investment Strategy to connect the North and transform its economy."

Martin McKervey, partner at Nabarro LLP and lead board member for transport at the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), added: "This is very a positive step forward for the Trans Pennine Tunnel project which will be hugely beneficial for businesses in the Sheffield city region, boosting our economy and creating jobs.

"Business people and residents know that for our businesses to grow our great city regions must be better connected and improving travel times between Manchester and Sheffield City Region is critical to this.

"Leaders from the public and private sector in Sheffield City Region are working closely with Government and Transport for the North on this project. We believe that there is a very strong strategic case for taking this project forward as quickly as possible as it brings together two major cities as part of national ambitions to strengthen the North and rebalance the UK economy."

The study looks at potential indicative route options for a strategic link and identifies a shortlist of better performing options. One option would join the M60 between Denton/Hyde and Romily/Bredbury in the East with the M1 in the area of Junction 35 on the edge of the Rotherham border. This option would involve a 24 mile link with 16 miles of tunnels. It is one of the most expensive options put forward relative to the others - potentially 40% - 60% more expensive.
Most routes are in a central position on the M1, providing good access to Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham regeneration areas. One shortlisted option would join the M1 further north, so, whilst providing good access to Barnsley regeneration areas, they are further from Sheffield and Rotherham regeneration areas.

Peter Kennan, Chair of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce Transport Forum, and Partner at Hawsons Chartered Accountants, welcomed the study but added: "We still need to be convinced that Sheffield city centre would directly benefit without the addition of a new fast link road to the tunnel. A journey to the new route via Junction 33, 34 or 36 of the M1, with already severe congestion and major air quality issues at Meadowhall, would take not much less time than the present route over the A57 Snake Pass, despite all its numerous problems – and also involves considerably increased mileage with the Co2 and fuel use consequences that entails."

The next stage will provide a cost estimate for each option and consider the extent to which it offers synergy with rail and/or light-rail options. A proposed link connecting the M1 and the M18 through Barnsley and Doncaster is also discussed.

The study is part of the Government's next phase of road improvements, which will get underway from 2020. The current Road Investment Strategy period covers 2015 to 2020.

The Sheffield City Region LEP is looking ahead further with a potential £75m+ large transport scheme on Pan Northern Connectivity - a new Trans-Pennine through route linking the SCR with Manchester and the Humber ports.

Transport for the North website

Images: Transport for the North


2 comments:

Mr me August 19, 2016 at 11:00 AM  

Haha,got to laugh at these uncosted plans,about as much chance of this happening as queen nipping to my house for sunday lunch this weekend.Just like the HS2,will never happen!

Cllr Nigel Simpson August 19, 2016 at 12:29 PM  

As someone who travelled this journey many times for work
I know the difficulties that the weather & road works can bring
( I used to carry a basic survival kit and a shovel! )

Manchester and Sheffield need better, safer transport links
But it's not just about Sheffield -
It's about South Yokshire, West Yorkshire Derbyshire
even Lincolnshire...
Not to mention Liverpool and Warwickshire.

With the current Transpennine Express plans South Yorkshire
doesn't need HS2
We NEED Electrification from Leeds to London and
a Meadowhall station for easy access from South Yorkshire.

So HS3 Manchester to Leeds if you must.
But the cost of the above reality would be minute in
comparison...
Especially as the money for electrification has already
been "promised"

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