Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Last Road Protest in Britain?

Overhead fly planes from the two runways at Manchester Airport, producing seven and half thousand tons of carbon dioxide a day.

At one end the three lane motorway that is the M67 ends in the two street village in which L S Lowry was born, the resulting traffic jams made worse by the construction of a loss making Tesco superstore.

At the other end is Britain's oldest National Park, across which lorries crawl 365 days a year.

In between lie the three Woodhead tunnels. Two about to be allowed to become derelict whilst the third, one of the newest railway tunnels in Britain, has not seen a passenger train pass through in more than half its life.

Welcome to the Integrated Transport disaster that is Longdendale.

Situated between Manchester and Sheffield, Longendale has a reputation as the 'Haunted Valley' with UFO hunters often camping out in search of the Longendale Lights. Cynics would say these are just aircraft coming in to land at Manchester Airport, but I do know someone who had an encounter with a 'ghost car' near the Devil's Elbow.

However there is nothing mysterious about the traffic congestion in the valley. Every day lorries rumble through the villages of Mottram, Tintwistle and Hollingworth a few feet from people's houses and a few inches from pedestrians.

A bypass was proposed, first in the seventies and then again in the noughties when it was killed off by campaigners and the Peak Park Authority, although this didn't stop the promised Tescos being built alongside the non-existant bypass.

But, like all the best villains, the road has risen from the grave. Not a bypass this time, but a possible Peak Park Motorway

Meetings are taking place across the Northwest of England to discuss a possible new road through Longdendale and that the public are not invited to participate. Department of Transport consultations on the a Route Based Strategy will be held in Warrington on 29/09/2013, Preston on 26/09/2013, Liverpool on 1/10/2013 and Manchester on 4/10/2013. ‘Local stakeholders’, as groups like GTi  are known, are not invited.

Meanwhile, as mentioned below, the Department for Transport appears minded to let the old Woodhead railway tunnels fall into disrepair, possibly preventing the newest tunnel ever being used again for trains. It seems not even Arriva, who had previously bid to reopen the line as part of the Trans-Pennine rail franchise, were consulted.
What is striking about the DfT's letter asking for opinions on the future of the tunnels is that there is
no mention of the traffic congestion in Longdendale. As far as the DfT is concerned, cars are from Venus and trains are from Mars. They are apples and cabbages, and can never be considered together in a strategy. Only more roads can end road congestion and only more railways can end train congestion. That the two are in any way related seems to be beyond their ken.

No doubt the Route Based Strategies will suggest a Peak Park Motorway. No doubt the new planning laws will see the Public Inquiry take place somewhere a long way from Longdendale. No doubt it will be a whitewash.
But equally, no doubt the campaigners will be back, lying in front of the bulldozers if necessary. 

We probably reached Peak Conventional Oil in 2007 and possibly Peak Car in the same year. Climate Change, as the IPCC reminded us today, is the big problem for twentifirst century.We do not need a Peak Motorway.

At some point sanity will kick in and we wills top building new roads. There will, one day, be the last road protest in Britain, and maybe this will be it.

So who's in then. The Last Road Protest In Britain?

Watch this space.

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