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

The Woodhead tunnel as is looks today
The Woodhead tunnel as is looks today
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A new railway line between Sheffield and Manchester could remove thousands of trucks from congested roads linking the cities, it is claimed.

Ambitious plans have been drawn up to reopen the old Woodhead tunnel route as a 'rolling highway' carrying cargo vehicles across the Pennines.

The proposed route (Grand Northern)

The proposed route (Grand Northern)

The new 'Grand Northern' project would also provide two extra express passenger services, it is envisaged - all at no, or very limited, cost to the taxpayer.

It is the brainchild of Julian Newton, the same man behind similar ultimately unsuccessful proposals set out a decade ago to reopen the line as 'Translink'.

The former engineer believes technological advances, growing congestion and increased awareness about the harmful effects of diesel vehicles mean his latest vision is destined to become reality.

He claims it would be quicker, cheaper to build and less harmful to the environment than proposals for a new road tunnel below the Peak District connecting the two cities.

The opening of the new Woodhead tunnel in 1954

The opening of the new Woodhead tunnel in 1954

"This is the common sense option. It's about righting the wrong of closing the tunnel and using it to carry electrical cables," said Mr Newton, of Glossop.

"There's a strong business case, with a good return on investment, and we've had lots of interest from potential investors.

"We're talking to the Department for Transport, and their response has been very encouraging.

"There's no need to waste taxpayers' money on a 20-mile long tunnel."

The new line would follow the old railway route, which has now largely been turned into bridle paths.

Lorries would be hauled by electric engines, and vehicles would board at loading terminals in Tinsley and Bredbury, close to the motorway. The platform bed in the tunnel would be lowered to accommodate trucks up to 4.86m tall.

It is estimated the line could carry up to 3,200 vehicles a day at maximum capacity, with a one-way fare of £130 for the 45-minute journey.

Mr Newton says it could remove 90 per cent of the HGV traffic clogging up towns and villages along the route, and prevent 150,000 tonnes of CO2 being spewed into the atmosphere each year.

The Woodhead railway line closed in 1981 and the main tunnel is now used by National Grid to carry power cables, while the two smaller ones have been bricked up.

Mr Newton claims National Grid could reopen the smaller tunnels and use them to carry the cables, in the short term at least.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling today revealed how the Govermnent is considering reopening some of the many railway lines which were closed during the 1960s and 70s.