The three tunnels, which have not seen a train run through them for thirty two years, have up until now been maintained by the National Grid who used them for high voltage cables.
With now complete on installing cables in the new 1953 tunnel the National Grid has no more use for the older tunnels. The Department of Transport will therefore decide this month on whether to purchase the tunnels in order to maintain them for future use. If the 1953 tunnel were to be reopened for trains the Victorian tunnels could again be used for electricity - unless they have fallen down.
Simon Burns MP, the Minister of State for Transport, has written to Andrew Bingham MP asking for his views by the beginning of September.
Save The Woodhead Tunnel group extracted from the
previous government a statement that they would consider the 'option' of preserving the tunnels, but the letter from the department appears to show how hollow those words were.
All this occurs at a time when the Highways Agency is consulting on Trans-Pennine Transport solutions. With the Woodhead Tunnels gone before the consultation has even started, the proposed Trans-Pennine Motorway could have the field to itself.
Keeping the tunnel open will cost £25,000 a year. By contrast the cost of the aborted inquiry into the Longendale Bypass alone was £16 million, or £39,000 a day.
Estimates of future traffic along any Trans-Pennine Motorway are unreliable - that's why the Public Inquiry ended - as are the potential saving of a rail alternative. However English Nature estimated that the road would add 15,840 tons of CO2 a year to the atmosphere, whilst the Translink proposal for reopening the tunnel estimated it could save 100,000 tons a year.
What To Do
Office of Andrew Bingham MP
20 Broad Walk
My own email to Andrew Bingham (please don't copy - use your own words)
I am writing as I believe the Department of Transport is currently considering whether to purchase the Victorian Woodhead Tunnels from the National Grid in order to preserve them for future use.
I note that they are making this decision at the same time that the Department is consulting with stakeholders over proposed Trans-Pennine transport solutions, in which road building in the Longendale Valley will be on the table.
I strongly believe that with car use in this country on a plateau or declining and with oil prices showing no sign of reducing, increasing Trans-Pennine rail capacity is the solution to the traffic problems of the valley and that, along with electrifying the Hope Valley line and improvements in the Leeds-Manchester line, reopening the Woodhead line would be a way of doing this.
I am therefore very strongly of the opinion that to allow the Victorian tunnels to fall into disrepair now, when we have no solutions at all agreed upon would be the wrong decision and that the Department of Transport must take the necessary steps to preserve them. There will be a cost, but it will be utterly trivial compared to the cost of even an inquiry into a road scheme.
Like so much of what is best about Glossop, these tunnels are the legacy of the forward thinking and sound engineering of our Victorian ancestors. They should not be discarded lightly.