Below see Don Valley Railway’s objection to plans to lay high voltage cables along the potential route of a re-instatement proposal East of Dunford Bridge.
I write as chair of Don Valley Railway. We are a campaign group seeking to reopen to the currently freight-only railway line to passenger traffic between Sheffield and Stocksbridge. This section forms part of the former Great Central Woodhead Rail Route, similar to the section of the Transpennine Trail proposed for undergrounding cables as part of this application.
Many of our supporters feel strongly that Woodhead Railway linking Sheffield and Manchester should not have been closed and that it should be preserved for reinstatement at some stage. In addition, should the Woodhead Rail route be re-opened this will make this will either achieve Don Valley Railway’s objectives or at least make them far easier to achieve, therefore we do not wish to see anything get in the way of this occurring.
In my former capacity working for the Peak Park Transport Forum, BMBC representatives informed me that after closure, their purchase of the route was for the express purpose of preserving it for rail reinstatement.
More lately Sheffield City Region’s transport strategy states that the Hope Valley Line should be used to link the two City Regions, however if this is not possible, that other options should be considered – the only other existing option possible, without considerable infrastructure work, being along this, the Woodhead Route.
In 2013 ahead of cables transferring from the Victorian Woodhead Tunnels to the 1954 built replacement tunnel, a study was undertaken by the Government body that existed at the time, Northern Way. This went into details as to the consideration of how far if at all those plans would compromise the ability to reinstate the Woodhead route as a rail Route.
This study went into detail as to how the tunnels could be used in future for rail and came to the conclusion that it was still possible to develop transport options along the route along side the undergrounding of cables.
For this application a short note has been presented to establish if these works would similarly impact on any future aspiration to reinstate the Woodhead Railway, as speculatively suggested in Sheffield City Region’s Transport strategy.
Within this it claims that… “The Northern Powerhouse Rail Director explained in The Sheffield Star on 4 January 2020, that the Woodhead route has already been looked at and discounted because re-opening it would cost too much; and that Transport for the North is focused on the Hope Valley line for improvements to journey times between Sheffield and Manchester…”
In this regard it is noted that a lack of certainty or scale exists with regards to the City Region aims to improve rail and transport links between Sheffield and Manchester City Regions. Currently a plan for a £30m upgrade of the South Transpennine corridor (Hope Valley Line) which is struggling to be implemented is the sum total of this. For Sheffield City Region to gain the necessary connectivity to flourish it is our view that these are out of scale with aspirations to improve transport links between other city regions.
In comparison with Manchester-Leeds City Region links plans for a £3billlion upgrade of the North Transpennine corridor services are under development, not to mention Northern Powerhouse Rail’s aspirations for a high speed line between Leeds and Manchester via Bradford. It is also worth noting a similar gulf exists between the quality of alternative transport facilities (road) between the corridors; compare the M62 with the A628.
Don Valley Railway would argue that if the Northern Powerhouse Rail Director Quoted’s views are as expressed in this document, they should be discounted as in comparison with other parts of The North of England they do not place an acceptable level of weight on the importance of Sheffield to Manchester City Region links to this part of the North of England and rather than aiding its economic rebalancing are acting against it.
It should be noted also that at the moment there are opportunities to develop large rail schemes. On announcing the go-ahead on HS2 Phase 1 and 2a to Birmingham and Crewe Boris Johnson stated that with regards to the remaining sections to Leeds and Manchester that these will be redeveloped to better fit within Northern Powerhouse Rail aspirations; i.e. better links into northern cities and towns. With this re-visitation, revised plans for rail could be progressed, and this section of former line may make a vital contribution to that process.
To demonstrate that this development does not have consequences that could have negative impacts on the environment and local economies in South Yorkshire and East Manchester, it is assumed that if a proposal comes forward to re-open the line that the public purse should pick up a bill of £35million at current prices. Stating that this will be an insignificant amount if part of the cost of a rail reopening scheme. Please note that this amount is larger than the total current budget allocated to improve the South Transpennine links. With regard to OfGem’s requirement of National Grid to ensure it operates in the interest of its shareholders, it would be preferred if a condition is put in place to ensure that National Grid shareholders pick up this additional cost in the future (rather than taxpayers) should a proposal come forward. In addition, we would require that that amount of money is not included in costs in any Cost-Benefit appraisal analysis of a future scheme.
There is also the matter that the £35,000,000 price tag is almost certain to be much higher as having removed pylons it is unlikely that the Peak District National Park authority would sanction their re-instatement should this occur. Installing new lines via another underground route will be more expensive. For example the £50million scheme to install cables through the Woodhead Tunnel would have cost only £18million if via Pylons. So what they are proposing puts a financial risk on to the public purse in excess of £100,000,000.
Alternatively a plan demonstrating that a rail alignment is retained along the trail, and/or, information detailing that if installed compromising such a route that it is economic and feasible to move the facility at reasonable cost. Ideally this should establish a route alignment to be preserved.
Don Valley Railway object to these proposals and will not withdraw our objection until a workable plan to ensure that the rail alignment is preserved is produced.
A link to the application is below: