Highways England is studying the idea of placing the A628 Trans-Pennine road in a 5.5-mile tunnel at its highest point in the Peak District National Park.
The tunnel would be part of a wider multi-billion pound project to dual the west-east A628 that connects the Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire conurbations across the Park.
The Government began exploring options to build a road tunnel between the conurbations in the mid-2010s. Initial work focused on a new 24-26 mile route, of which between 12 and 20 miles would be in tunnel (LTT 16 Dec 16). Attention has subsequently turned to a less costly plan making use of the existing A628 corridor (LTT 14 Sep 18).
The A628 connects the A57 at Mottram Moor in Tameside (close to the M67) with the M1 in South Yorkshire. The altitude and exposure of the Woodhead Pass in the Peak District can lead to the road being closed in bad weather.
A Trans-Pennine tunnel study board, chaired by Highways England, meets monthly. It includes representatives of the DfT, Transport for the North, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, and the Peak District National Park Authority. Consultant WSP provides support.
The current thinking is to place about 9km (5.5 miles) of the highest section of the A628 in tunnel and to dual the rest of the road, including within the National Park.
The proposal is controversial for the National Park Authority, which has a policy to oppose major road schemes except in exceptional circumstances.
In a report considered by the National Park Authority in May, John Scott, its director of conservation and planning, said: “We could support an exemplar proposal that delivers significant net environmental enhancement to the National Park, reducing and mitigating the negative impacts that the current A628 has on the landscape character, biodiversity, tranquillity and public enjoyment of the Park.”
In April, at the request of the tunnel study board, Scott wrote to the DfT, setting out the Park Authority’s position. He said: “Without a clear commitment from the Department for Transport and its partners to implement the full strategy and to undertake the whole scheme, including those elements that will give the significant environmental enhancements that the National Park Authority seeks, the authority would not be able to support it.”
The DfT’s investment portfolio and decisions committee had been due to take a decision on whether to progress the scheme in May. This was deferred, and a decision may be taken this month. If approved, the project would proceed to stage one of the design process.
David Whitley, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority’s senior programme manager for transport, told the CA’s transport board last week: “It is anticipated that an improved Trans-Pennine route could roughly double the existing usage on the A628, initially attracting around 35,000 vehicles a day. Anticipated journey time reductions from the M1 to the M60 could be around 30 minutes.”
The project would cost many billions of pounds and would have to be delivered across multiple five-year road investment periods.
Whitley said there would be a need to reduce the disbenefit for communities at both ends of the route affected by increased traffic. This includes the A61 and A6102 in Sheffield, the A628 in Barnsley, and the A630 and A18 in Doncaster.
At its eastern end, an upgraded A628 and A616 could connect to the M1 and then on via another new road to the M18 (see map). Doncaster Council last year outlined the idea of a ‘pan-Northern route’ connecting Greater Manchester to the Humber Ports (LTT 19 Jul 19).
Said Whitley: “Highways England are content to work with us on developing alignments of the [M1 to M18] route to reduce the impact on the historical environment and improve access to our growth areas.”
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