England

Sheffield to Manchester £6bn road tunnel 'plan' announced

Woodhead Pass Image copyright Steve Fareham
Image caption Overtaking lanes could be introduced on the Woodhead Pass

A major road tunnel could be bored through the Peak District to improve links between Sheffield and Manchester.

A government study will look at the feasibility of tunnelling under the A628 Woodhead Pass, in a scheme which would reportedly cost £6bn.

It is in addition to the Department of Transport's £15bn package to transform major roads across England.

Other improvements for the A628 include adding overtaking lanes to allow faster vehicles to overtake lorries.

Upgrades are also planned for the A57 between Sheffield and Manchester and widening the A1 at Doncaster.

Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield MP Nick Clegg said the tunnel would have a "major, transformational effect" on the area.

"(We are) looking at the feasibility of this much-discussed but never properly researched option of building a tunnel through the Pennines from Manchester to Sheffield," he said.

"It's not going to be something that happens overnight and at the moment all I'm saying is we're going to commission work into the viability of it."

'Waste of money'

The DfT said upgrading routes between Manchester and Sheffield represented the first increase in Trans-Pennine links since 1971.

Further projects set to benefit the region include completing the "smart motorway" along the length of the M62 from Leeds to Manchester - using variable speed limits.

But the Campaign for Better Transport described the plans as a "waste of money", claiming that building new roads would increase congestion.

Sian Berry, from the group, suggested improving public transport links between Sheffield and Manchester, including re-opening the Woodhead Tunnel railway line, which closed in 1981.

She said: "There's a disused railway line, the Woodhead Tunnel, and we think that should be reopened as a working, frequent railway.

"We don't think you should be drilling a big road tunnel through the Peak District. We think traffic should be kept on the roads which should be run more efficiently."

Of the £15bn spending confirmed by the government on Monday, about £2.3bn will be pumped into 18 schemes across Yorkshire and the north east, aimed at improving bottlenecks and reducing congestion.

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