Hundreds back petition to reopen lost railway line between Sheffield and Manchester

Hundreds of people have backed a petition to reopen a long-closed railway line between Sheffield and Manchester.

A company called Grand Northern wants to revive the Woodhead tunnel route for freight and passenger services, which it claims would dramatically ease congestion on roads through the Peak District.

The entrance to the main Woodhead tunnel, which is today used to carry electric cables

The entrance to the main Woodhead tunnel, which is today used to carry electric cables

A new petition to get the line up and running again has already been signed more than 550 times since being launched last Tuesday, November 14.

READ MORE: New 'Grand Northern' railway line between Sheffield and Manchester proposed to ease congestion

Should the online petition attract 10,000 signatures by the May 14 deadline, the Government must respond; and if 100,000 people sign it, the petition will be considered for debate in parliament.

The petition, founded by Andy Kettle, states: “The A628 road is dangerously congested daily, so an option to use RoRo (roll-on, roll-off) trains between Stockport and Sheffield to take trucks off the Woodhead Pass would be economically viable to the transport industry, reducing the carbon footprint for local communities along the A628.”

The opening of the new Woodhead tunnel in 1954

The opening of the new Woodhead tunnel in 1954

Under Grand Northern's plans, electric trains would carry up to 3,200 cargo vehicles a day beneath the Woodhead Passthrough the Pennines, and there would be two express passenger services – all of which its chief executive Julian Newton claims could be done at little or no cost to the public purse.

READ MORE: Forgotten Sheffield railway line could be revived with steam trains and commuter services

Mr Newton claims to be in ‘advanced negotiations’ with Transport for the North (TfN) and the Department for Transport about his plans.

“This railway line is now seen as the only realistic opportunity to deal with the traffic chaos that exists along the M67/A628/A616 corridor, which is

besieged by countless traffic jams and road traffic accidents, many fatal, notwithstanding the numerous closures over the winter months,” he said.

“Comprising high speed passenger services, a roll-on, roll-off lorry shuttle and intermodal freight trains, the new route would be a major boon for

the regional and national economies.”

READ MORE: Sheffield station HS2 transformation moves a step closer as designers are appointed

One major obstacle is that since the line ceased operating in 1981, the main tunnel has been used by National Grid to carry electric cables under the Peak District.

National Grid is set to commence consultation next month on proposals to replace a 2km section of pylons east of the Woodhead tunnels, near Dunford Bridge, with underground cables.

It claims the project would enhance views across the Peak District but rail campaigners argue this would come at a huge cost as the cables would run alongside the Trans Pennine Trail, which follows the old Woodhead route, virtually extinguishing any hope of ever reviving the railway line.

National Grid said it had corresponded with Mr Newton about his proposal to revive the Woodhead route but it was unable to fund the necessary relocation of its cables.

It said the Government had already declined to take ownership of the Victorian tunnels due to the cost of maintaining it for potential future development, and it was not aware the tunnel featured in TfN’s strategy to improve transport links between Sheffield and Manchester.

Transport for the North said in a statement: “This proposal is being considered alongside a number of proposals as part of one of Transport for the North’s Strategic Development Corridors, in this case, the Southern Pennines Corridor.

!This is a multi-modal study aimed at identifying transport connectivity improvements, for passengers and goods, which will drive transformational economic growth through to 2050.

“For each corridor, we are engaging with our key local transport authority partners, Highways England, Network Rail and the Department for Transport, as well as key businesses including airports, ports, freight operators who all have a role in shaping the outputs of our work. The results of this study will be released alongside an updated Strategic Transport Plan.”

You can view the petition here.