We are fully supportive of the principle behind the Northern Powerhouse – a thriving economy in the north that addresses the productivity imbalance between London and elsewhere, reverses the longstanding trend of deepening inequalities in people's quality of life, and enables regeneration of our smaller towns and villages.
In that context we are pleased that the Government, with Transport for the North, is developing a long term strategy to improve travel between and within northern cities. The latest version of Transport for the North’s plans and the recent comprehensive spending review show a commitment to rail electrification, smart ticketing and improvements to freight journeys.
However, the trans-Pennine tunnel idea evolved before the Northern Powerhouse and therefore seems to be developing as an enormous costly white elephant that is distorting the strategy. No evidence has yet shown how improving this road corridor fits into the overall spatial and transport strategy for the entire north. It is focused on car journeys between Manchester and Sheffield. We would like to know about benefits for other northern cities and towns. The tunnel promises to knock 30 minutes off a trans-Pennine journey but would probably dump traffic in the already congested urban areas to sit in queues and lose any time saved. The need to tunnel under the Peak, if pursued, will eat up £6 billion which could be invested in new and faster rail routes between cities, and buses and trams within cities.
Obviously we are delighted that the tunnelling under the Peak District National Park recognises its highest status of protection. But the study needs to go further and show how investing billions in a single trans-Pennine road route would bring economic benefits for all northern citizens.
Anne Robinson, Campaigner