Closing Woodhead line a total disgrace

Woodhead Railway Tunnel
Woodhead Railway Tunnel
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Reading the double page spread on January 22, on the ambitious transport plan for the region, there is one issue that sticks out like a sore thumb, and that is the utter madness of closing the Woodhead railway line back in 1981.

Every politician needs to accept that this was a total disgrace, and it is now coming back to bite us.

News of the proposal to upgrade the Hope Valley line is to be welcomed, as this line does have some notable weaknesses, such as the single-track bottleneck through Dore station and the absolute block signalling.

But the acceptance that we might possibly need another railway line linking Sheffield and Manchester is a true sign of the birds coming home to roost. This line is known as the Woodhead line, and 36 years ago we closed it.

In the post-war optimism of the 1950s, the Woodhead line was electrified, involving the construction of a new three-mile tunnel alongside the deteriorating Victorian single bores.

After all that investment, the modernised Woodhead line then lasted a mere 27 years.

There were spurious reasons for closing the line, the Achilles heel being the non-standard electrification.

And now, 30 years later, we have another act of madness.

At a time when we need to seriously consider reopening the line, we have laid National Grid electric cables in the 1954 tunnel, moving them from the Victorian tunnels where they were installed when the new rail tunnel was built, as the maintenance cost of the older tunnels was ever increasing.

If we still had the Woodhead line, it would be a huge benefit to transport in that region, possibly making road upgrades far less necessary.

I think we must still hold out hopes for reopening the Woodhead line.

Even if we have to re-bore the Victorian tunnels for rail use again or refurbish them fit for moving the cables back into them to make the 1954 tunnel available for rail use again, it is bound to be cheaper than a completely new rail line taking another route altogether.

Rowan Watson-Taylor

S11