Call for Trans-Pennine Tunnel to properly serve Sheffield city centre
A proposed tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester must serve the city centre, according to business leaders.
Members of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce were speaking after the Government released its latest progress report into the Trans-Pennine Tunnel, which would run under the Peak District National Park.
If built, the new tunnel could be up to 20 miles long - although it may be just 10 miles - and could cost between £6.5 billion and £10.1 billion.
In its latest report, the Government said the tunnel would cut journey times between the two cities by half an hour, and would 'dramatically' change the link between 'two of the most important cities in the north' - with huge economic benefits.
Five proposed routes run through three 'corridors', joining the M1 at different spots between Sheffield and Barnsley.
£1bn Sheffield to Manchester tunnel ‘crucial’ for businessBut while Sheffield Chamber members welcomed the latest suggestion that building tunnel was an achievable ambition, they also called for more consideration over the route.
Peter Kennan, chairman of the Chamber's transport forum, said the five proposed routes lost sight of one of the key aims of the project.
"It is part of the strategy for a Manchester to Sheffield Northern Powerhouse link and not just an M67 to M1 link," he said.
Mr Kennan said it was 'hard to comprehend' that the Government wanted Sheffield-based business people to travel east to junctions 33 or 34 of the M1, then north to junctions 35a or 36, before heading west to Manchester over a new A628(M).
He added: "We would like (the Government) to focus in some measure on how to serve Sheffield and Manchester city centres in your study as well as the tunnel itself."
Chamber chief executive Richard Wright said improving road and rail links between Sheffield and Manchester was 'critical'.
"In simple terms the Peak District National Park does present some added complications because we have to think this through very carefully to avoid visual and environmental degradation," he added.
"A road tunnel as proposed is a good solution but we would also like the exploration of a road/rail tunnel as well.
"Sheffield Chamber always takes the position that it will support the option that delivers the best economic return for the region and so we are unlikely to say which route is preferred at this time until we have more details. Needless to say this scheme requires a lot more work.
"It is interesting to note that all the big schemes like HS2, HS3 and the TPT are well into the future and there is a massive question about what we do in the meantime. Decisions around the Midland Mainline franchise, the success of DSA and services to Leeds will have more effect on us short term."
The Government report said traffic across the Pennines would grow by eight to 11 per cent by 2019, and 28 to 37 per cent by 2034.
"In this context, doing nothing is likely to involve increasing constraints and challenges to business productivity as a result of worsening transport connectivity," it said.
"This will negatively affect the attractiveness of the north as a place to invest and as a place for graduates and skilled workers to start and progress their careers.
"Overall, this would have a negative impact on economic performance, causing ongoing imbalances in the UK economy."
Any tunnel is not likely to open for at least 20 years.
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