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Growing calls to reopen Woodhead railway tunnels between Sheffield and Manchester

A train entering the Woodhead tunnel
A train entering the Woodhead tunnel
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Public support appears to be growing for plans to reopen the old Woodhead railway tunnels to speed up journeys between Sheffield and Manchester.

The three-mile long tunnels across the Pennines have been closed since 1981, with the main tunnel now used by National Grid to carry power cables and the other two having been bricked up.

The proposed route of the Grand Northern Railways line, using the old Woodhead tunnel (pic: Grand Northern Railways)

The proposed route of the Grand Northern Railways line, using the old Woodhead tunnel (pic: Grand Northern Railways)

But Grand Northern Railways founder Julian Newton wants to move the cables and reopen the main tunnel, creating a roll-on, roll-off railway service for cargo vehicles which he says would remove thousands of lorries from congested roads through the Peak District.

READ MORE: New 'Grand Northern' railway line between Sheffield and Manchester proposed to ease congestion

Proposals to re-open the tunnels were not included in Transport for the North's extensive draft transport strategy, setting out plans for £60-70 billion worth of improvements to road, rail and air connections to boost the region's economy.

But Mr Newton is undeterred by the omission, pointing to a growing body of public support for his project which he says would require little or no public money and could dramatically cut pollution.

The main Woodhead tunnel is today used to carry power cables through the Pennines

The main Woodhead tunnel is today used to carry power cables through the Pennines

"We've had huge public support and the hauliers we've spoken to are quite keen on the idea, so I'm still very positive this can happen," he said.

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"We've submitted our proposal to Transport for the North as part of its public consultation and we're waiting for its response, which we expect this autumn."

Mr Newton estimates the line could carry up to 3,200 vehicles a day at maximum capacity, with a one-way fare of £130 for the approximately 45-minute journey between loading terminals at Tinsley, in Sheffield, and Bredbury, near Stockport.

He claims Peel Logistics, which is planning a new business park near Meadowhall where rumours suggest Amazon wants to create a huge warehouse, has expressed an interest in the proposals.

READ MORE: Long-awaited plans to increase number of fast trains between Sheffield and Manchester move a step closer

The project is backed by the Woodhead Railway Heritage Group, which says it would help remove trucks from 'heavily congested' roads between Sheffield and Manchester, and a Facebook group set up in support has nearly 700 members.

Andrew Oldfield, of the Huddersfield, Penistone & Sheffield Rail Users Association, has described reopening the Woodhead route as the 'only solution' to significantly speed up rail journeys between the two cities.

The campaign group Railfuture has said reviving the route should be a 'strong contender' to help achieve the Northern Powerhouse goal of 30-minute rail journeys between Sheffield and Manchester.

READ MORE: Internet giant Amazon to bring 1,000 new jobs to Sheffield

Chris Bell, chairman of Sheffield's Don Valley Railway group, which campaigns to introduce services between Stocksbridge and the old Sheffield Victoria station, has also called for the route to be reinstated.

Writing to Transport for the North, he said this option should be given 'more weight' when it comes to improving links between what he calls Europe's worst-connected neighbouring cities.