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Government Won't Save Woodhead Railway Tunnels

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The Government has decided not to acquire the Victorian single bore tunnels at Woodhead following the National Grid’s decommissioning of its electrical supply infrastructure from within them. This work is currently close to completion and follows the installation of new cabling within the adjacent 1954 British Rail tunnel. As a result, these historic structures - the first of which took more than seven years to construct - will soon be “permanently sealed” and abandoned.

The Woodhead tunnels are located on the former Manchester to Sheffield railway line, known as the Woodhead route, which was closed to passenger traffic in 1970 and to freight in 1981. The original single bore Victorian tunnels were replaced in 1953 by a new tunnel when the line was electrified. In the 1960s, National Grid bought the Victorian tunnels and installed high voltage cables to transmit electricity. When the line finally closed in 1981, National Grid purchased the modern tunnel with a view of installing new cables in the modern tunnel and abandoning the Victorian tunnels when cables needed renewing some 30 years later.

In 2007, National Grid began work on this project. This is now close to completion and a contract will shortly be let for the permanent sealing of the Victorian tunnels.

In 2007 to 2008 ministers received many representations urging them to protect the Woodhead tunnels so that the Woodhead route could be re-opened to rail traffic in the future. There was no case then for taking any steps to halt National Grid’s plan but Ministers did agree to consider, at the appropriate time, whether or not to instigate an inspection and maintenance regime on the Victorian tunnels. This would leave open the option to move cables back into the Victorian tunnels and re-use the modern tunnel for rail traffic in the future. With completion of the work imminent, that decision needs to be made now before the tunnels are sealed.

Since 2008, much has happened which has helped inform my decision. The government has committed funding to the Northern Hub programme. This includes schemes to increase capacity and line speeds on the Hope Valley route. A study recently carried out by Network Rail indicates that demand for travel between Manchester and Sheffield could more than double in thirty years. With the planned investment, the Hope Valley line and its trains could accommodate this growth. If freight grows, schemes have also been identified which could enable more freight trains to run.

The Victorian tunnels are not in a good condition and would require on-going funding to keep them in a condition necessary for possible re-use. These costs would fall on the taxpayer or mean less money for other vital rail investment in the north.

If an additional rail route was ever required between Manchester and Sheffield, it is unlikely that even the modern tunnels would be suitable for re-use and, given advances in tunnelling technology even since 2008 as witnessed by Crossrail, the best solution is most likely to be the construction of a new tunnel.

I am therefore announcing that the government will not be purchasing the tunnels from National Grid in order to instigate an inspection and maintenance regime and I shall be informing National Grid accordingly.

Before reaching my decision, I wrote to over 40 MPs representing constituencies both east and west of the Pennines, and received three replies. I also wrote to other statutory bodies with an interest in the tunnels and Network Rail. In total just seven replies were received by early September but I have given them full consideration.

My decision does not rule the possibility of re-opening the Woodhead route to rail traffic in the future, should a new line ever be required.

Also large parts of the closed route are protected from development and will continue to be available for the enjoyment of cyclists, horse riders and hikers passing through the magnificent landscape of the South Pennines.

Published:

5 November 2013

Organisation:

Department for Transport

Minister:

Stephen Hammond MP

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/woodhead-tunnels

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Lets be clear, railways are yesterday's technology. This country currently shells out £7bn in subsidy for a service which those who use it tell me is a national if not international disgrace. Crashes, old decrepit trains, bolshie unions always threatening strikes. Is it not about time we looked at this subsidy for what it really is a train tax and say enough is enough.

If rail travel was as wonderful as lefty luvvies like Michael Palin would have us believe then would our 3rd rate system really require £7bn in subsidy? That money should be stopped and it given back to hard working families and wealth creators as a tax cut.

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That money should be stopped and it given back to hard working families and wealth creators as a tax cut.

There clearly is no economic benefit in enabling people to commute into work on a train.

Try going to London Bridge, Waterloo etc at the rush hour.

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Tarmac the rail lines and run coaches on them at a fraction of the cost.

Long distance luxury coaches with first class compartments, face to face seating and table service. The rail subsidy is holding back development here.

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just lorries

Wasn't someone looking at creating a kind of "road train" thing on this a couple of years ago? A train that lorries drove on to. Can't remember where I read it now.

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Wasn't someone looking at creating a kind of "road train" thing on this a couple of years ago? A train that lorries drove on to. Can't remember where I read it now.

Doubt there's room for that. Train wagon + lorry = too tall for bridges, tunnels, and electric lines probably.

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Well, on the face of it, there is no current or imminent use for the tunnels, and in the event of a new rail link arising, of unknown specification, the existing tunnels, even in good repair, might not be suitable.

It seems it would be more cost effective to build new tunnels if and when needed, than to throw money at maintaining an antiquated tunnel indefinitely which may never have any eventual use.

Closing them sounds like a good idea. Let bats breed in them.

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Well, on the face of it, there is no current or imminent use for the tunnels, and in the event of a new rail link arising, of unknown specification, the existing tunnels, even in good repair, might not be suitable.

It seems it would be more cost effective to build new tunnels if and when needed, than to throw money at maintaining an antiquated tunnel indefinitely which may never have any eventual use.

Closing them sounds like a good idea. Let bats breed in them.

Read somewhere that apparently even the 1950s tunnel couldn't be used now since it wouldn't get away with not meeting modern standards due to not currently having a railway in it - which apparently need separate bores for both lines and a third emergency tunnel IIRC. That sort of thing makes sense for the likes of the Channel Tunnel but I really, really hope that we're not that stupidly ludicrous with every single one now. I wouldn't be surprised if we are but I don't think that all the tunnels on HS1 are like that either.

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Lets be clear, railways are yesterday's technology. This country currently shells out £7bn in subsidy for a service which those who use it tell me is a national if not international disgrace. Crashes, old decrepit trains, bolshie unions always threatening strikes. Is it not about time we looked at this subsidy for what it really is a train tax and say enough is enough.

If rail travel was as wonderful as lefty luvvies like Michael Palin would have us believe then would our 3rd rate system really require £7bn in subsidy? That money should be stopped and it given back to hard working families and wealth creators as a tax cut.

It has rather amazed at the lengths Nottingham has gone to to reinstate the tramlines which originally went down in the Victorian era. We are talking a flyover over the existing railway station, a viaduct near the University as grand as the Tyne bridge, all this for a few miles of track and costing millions.

Just one of the major Civil Engineering projects for the new tramline, a sledge hammer to crack a nut.............

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It has rather amazed at the lengths Nottingham has gone to to reinstate the tramlines which originally went down in the Victorian era. We are talking a flyover over the existing railway station, a viaduct near the University as grand as the Tyne bridge, all this for a few miles of track and costing millions.

Just one of the major Civil Engineering projects for the new tramline, a sledge hammer to crack a nut.............

Did somebody say... 'monorail'?

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It has rather amazed at the lengths Nottingham has gone to to reinstate the tramlines which originally went down in the Victorian era. We are talking a flyover over the existing railway station, a viaduct near the University as grand as the Tyne bridge, all this for a few miles of track and costing millions.

Just one of the major Civil Engineering projects for the new tramline, a sledge hammer to crack a nut.............

I've often wondered if it would be effective to tunnel a few roads/links a mile or two underground and through big Towns and Cities. For example if a car journey through a town centre at rush hour takes 30 minutes to travel two miles, then if a journey through the tunnel takes 3-4 minutes and reduce traffic elsewhere then it must be a good thing long term?.

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I've often wondered if it would be effective to tunnel a few roads/links a mile or two underground and through big Towns and Cities. For example if a car journey through a town centre at rush hour takes 30 minutes to travel two miles, then if a journey through the tunnel takes 3-4 minutes and reduce traffic elsewhere then it must be a good thing long term?.

The tunnel would also tend to be congested if it was 'successful', and the existence of the tunnel (or any alternative route) would tend to encourage more people to take the journey. A paradox that is a problem for all transport developments. So tunnels, when seen that way, are an expensive way to create capacity which will then be filled.

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Lets be clear, railways are yesterday's technology. This country currently shells out £7bn in subsidy for a service which those who use it tell me is a national if not international disgrace. Crashes, old decrepit trains, bolshie unions always threatening strikes. Is it not about time we looked at this subsidy for what it really is a train tax and say enough is enough.

If rail travel was as wonderful as lefty luvvies like Michael Palin right wing luvvies like michael portillo would have us believe then would our 3rd rate system really require £7bn in subsidy? That money should be stopped and it given back to hard working families and wealth creators as a tax cut.

corrected that one for you

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The tunnel would also tend to be congested if it was 'successful', and the existence of the tunnel (or any alternative route) would tend to encourage more people to take the journey. A paradox that is a problem for all transport developments. So tunnels, when seen that way, are an expensive way to create capacity which will then be filled.

If more people take it it takes pressure off elsewhere. It'll encourage more people to take a journey by that route, I don't really accept this notion that it'll encourage more to make a certain journey full stop. Few people travel unless they have to, at least for day-to-day traffic (holiday traffic is probably different, where motorways almost certainly resulted in people travelling to holiday destinations that they wouldn't have visited before). Actual traffic growth is almost entirely a function of population growth, and hence another reason to stop it.

We are rather wimpy when it comes to building road tunnels in this country though. Occasionally a major road might get one but there are numerous minor roads that could benefit from them and would probably have got a tunnel years ago in a country like France.

As for Woodhead the Hope Valley line is probably a better route between Manchester and Sheffield anyway. There are more deserving things on the railways to spend money on (going back in time to not having undersized, sardine-tin commuter trains with seats like planks of wood on regional and inter-city routes would be my favourite, but there seems bugger all chance of that happening).

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If more people take it it takes pressure off elsewhere. It'll encourage more people to take a journey by that route, I don't really accept this notion that it'll encourage more to make a certain journey full stop. Few people travel unless they have to, at least for day-to-day traffic (holiday traffic is probably different, where motorways almost certainly resulted in people travelling to holiday destinations that they wouldn't have visited before). Actual traffic growth is almost entirely a function of population growth, and hence another reason to stop it.

We are rather wimpy when it comes to building road tunnels in this country though. Occasionally a major road might get one but there are numerous minor roads that could benefit from them and would probably have got a tunnel years ago in a country like France.

As for Woodhead the Hope Valley line is probably a better route between Manchester and Sheffield anyway. There are more deserving things on the railways to spend money on (going back in time to not having undersized, sardine-tin commuter trains with seats like planks of wood on regional and inter-city routes would be my favourite, but there seems bugger all chance of that happening).

A project like tunnelling across from Felixstowe docks to Harwich could link all the ports and make journeys shorter,quicker and with alternative routes in case the orwell bridge is closed due to high winds or accidents, happens a fair bit. Dual the A120 through to the A12 about 10-12 miles worth of dualling. How much would this cost? Travelling times would reduce a fair bit for commuting/leisure trips and 40% of the countries containers currently pass through felixstowe docks. I know most lorries don't travel in that direction but quite a few must do. Over time would it pay off?

Would foreign interests pump money in for this? what's a couple of billion to the owners of felixstowe docks or potential investor...

Many would pay a few quid toll to use it rather than travel the long way around. Plus the lorry improvements.

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