First could I wish all Star readers a happy and prosperous New Year!
Every reader no doubt knows of the problems often faced by those who cross the Pennines, either by road or rail. The Woodhead Pass, for example, is closed on a regular basis due to accidents or bad weather.
It is not unknown for a journey to Manchester, from either Sheffield or Barnsley, to take well over an hour. And yet Manchester is only 30 miles away.
The links are vital to the development of the South Yorkshire economy. We know, for example, that our future prosperity will depend on strengthening and extending our manufacturing base. For that, we need good transport links with our supply chains, many obuilt with companies based in the north west.
So economically, transport links matter.
But our environment matters too, not least because our road and rail routes cut through the Peak District. It is vital therefore that we think carefully about how to improve our transport links with the north-west.
That’s why I am so disappointed with the coalition government’s plan for improving our transport capacity. It amounts to adjustments to the road network around Mottram and Tintwistle and a feeder lane for the Woodhead as it goes through Longdendale.
This is likely to be controversial with residents on the western side of the A628.
But, as with the previous proposals, the risk is also of increased traffic volumes on our side of the Pennines, with the possible consequence that the problem is just shifted eastwards to Thurlstone, Penistone and Langsett.
The Tory answer to this is to raise the prospect of a long-term solution: a road tunnel under the Pennines. As far as our rail connections are concerned, the plan is to build a new railway line between Manchester and – wait for it – Leeds!
I welcome the proposed new rail link. I welcome long-term thinking about our road connections with Manchester. But what we’ve got from the government is once again ‘jam tomorrow’.
We need to keep on campaigning for a long-term rail solution, for the sake of our economy and for the sake of our national park. We need to continue standing up for South Yorkshire.