Ambitious plans to build a road tunnel through the Peak District to connect Sheffield and Manchester are to be examined by experts.
A £1.3m contract has been awarded to Mouchel/Hyder to assist Highways England in establishing whether a Trans-Pennine Tunnel, expected to cost billions, would be viable.
The study will investigate the strategic and economic case for a new high-standard highway route between Manchester and Sheffield, including assessing the potential opportunities of combining with a rail or light rail link.
It is anticipated that the new route will cross the Pennines and the Peak District National Park by means of a road tunnel which will extend for several miles.
Road Minister Andrew Jones said: “As part of our long-term economic plan we are investing a record £13 billion in transport for the North and North-East. Today’s announcement will look at building stronger links between Manchester and Sheffield, meaning more jobs and opportunities for people across the region.
“It is just one of the steps this government is taking to ensure working people across the country benefit from our investment in better transport.
Dr Jon Lamonte, lead officer for Transport for the North, said: “We welcome this important milestone and look forward to the commencement of the study which is a key element of both the Road Improvement Scheme programme and Transport for the North’s longer-term transport strategy as set out in March 2015. We look forward to continued working with Highways England and the Department for Transport to deliver the vision for a Northern Powerhouse.”