New Pennine links essential

Clive Betts
Clive Betts
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I agree with local councillors and business leaders that HS2 will bring economic benefits including more jobs particularly to cities like Sheffield which have a station on the route.

While good connections to London are important in attracting new investment we also need improvements to the transport links between the major cities in the North. Most are poor but the links between Sheffield and Manchester are probably the worst between any two large cities in Europe. If anyone can find worse examples I’d be interested to hear about them. Continental cities have roads and railways that go through or under large mountain ranges but we can’t manage to of transport people and freight adequately across a few hills.

A few weeks ago with my colleague Angela Smith MP we drove the Transport Minister to Glossop. He was taken aback by the state of the Woodhead, complete with overturned lorry, until we had the joy of crawling back over the Snake!

I am pleased the Government are reviewing cross- Pennine connections but if we can’t build through the Peak district National Park we have to seriously consider going under it.

That leads on to rail links. A bit of tinkering with the Hope Valley line is not a long-term solution. HS2 have been asked to consider HS3, namely high speed east/west links.

HS2boss David Higgins recently talked to MPs of one HS3 line by which he really meant a line from Manchester to Leeds. I quickly pointed out that Sheffield also wanted to benefit from any scheme and he agreed to consider that.

So what about re opening the Woodhead rail tunnel or building a new one, coming from Manchester and then splitting in a Y to Sheffield and Leeds. We could match the planned North /south high speed Y with an East /West high speed Y and give Sheffield the best rail links it could imagine. Good for investment and good for jobs.

Maybe you think my ideas far-fetched. They probably are compared with our poor record of infrastructure investment in the UK.

Anyone who visits the continent for work or holiday would realise that what I’m prosing would have been done years ago in many other countries.