Environmental campaigners have voiced dismay at new plans to upgrade a main road linking Sheffield and Manchester.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has announced that £28 billion of investment in road improvements will be made over the next 10 years – guaranteed by law.
Part of the plans involve ‘feasibility studies to solve problems at the most notorious hotspots on the road network’ – including ‘trans-Pennine routes between Manchester and Sheffield’.
There have been plans to upgrade the A628 Woodhead route for the last 40 years because the road is narrow and prone to being closed by bad weather.
Alternative roads between Sheffield and Manchester involve driving north to Leeds and using the M62 – a substantial detour – or using the A57, which is narrower than the A628 and even more prone to closure due to snow and high winds.
Original plans in the 1960s and ’70s involved a motorway – downgraded to a dual carriageway in the 1980s – and then in the 1990s and 2000s a bypass of villages at the western end of the road, which are a congestion hotspot.
The bypass proposal was abandoned after a public inquiry found the road would attract much more traffic – damaging the Peak District.
Anne Robinson, of environmental group Friends of the Peak District, questioned the need for a major upgrade.
She said: “The view of our organisation has always been that 13 miles of the A628 passes through one of Britain’s most important landscapes which should be protected.
“Lorries have fallen from a quarter to 15 per cent of vehicles on the A628 and the main problems seem to stem from local traffic at the western end.
“A better solution would be smaller schemes and better public transport.”
Ms Robinson said the cost of a public inquiry needed for major road improvements would be better spent on public transport.
But Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said: “It cannot be good for the environment to have so much traffic queuing. Improving Woodhead would also mean less traffic on the Snake Pass.”
The Department for Transport aims to finish its feasibility study by 2015.