The Department for Transport (DfT) has unveiled a shortlist of five potential routes for a Trans-Pennine road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield.
Ministers claimed this is the most ambitious road scheme since the construction of the first motorways 50 years ago, and both the DfT and Transport for the North (TfN) have identified the scheme as a priority in their strategic plans.
All five potential routes run under the Peak District National Park (PDNP), join the M60 east of Manchester to the M1 north of Sheffield - with four options starting at the M67 - and would halve journey times between the two cities the DfT said.
The tunnel options range in length between 10 and 20 miles, with the strategic link length ranging from 23 to 36 miles.
An update on a strategic study into the scheme, published today, found: ‘There remains a clear strategic case for the scheme because it is aligned with central and sub-national Government policy, and because it provides additional capacity, brings two major centres closer together and contributes to the aspirations of the northern regions to maximise economic benefits through the creation of a single economic centre.’
John Cridland, chairman of TfN, added: ‘This is just one of the visionary projects Transport for the North is working on, as well as other schemes, such as Northern Powerhouse Rail, as we continue to develop a Transport and Investment Strategy to connect the North and transform its economy.’
Map from DfT: Trans-Pennine route options
Northern Corridor (A) – Crosses the PDNP at the narrowest point. To the west it extends as far north as the A627 and as far south as Ashton-under-Lyne. At the Eastern end the corridor extends towards Barnsley and the M1 in the area between the A635 and the A628 at junction 37.
A628/A616 Corridor (B) – Broadly follows the line of the existing strategic route under the PDNP following the M67, A628 and the A616. To the west the corridor broadly follows the alignment of the M67 corridor as a connection to the M60. To the East the corridor extends as far as the M1 in the area around the A616 and A61 at 35A and 36 respectively.
Central Corridor C – In the West the corridor begins near the M60 via the gap between Denton/Hyde and Romiley/Bredbury near the River Tame between junction 24 and 25. At the eastern side the corridor joins the M1 in the area of junction 35
Southern Corridor (D) – Broadly defined by the presence of Derwent Valley and Ladybower Reservoir. In the west, the corridor meets the M60 around junction 25 and also extends toward the Manchester Airport Eastern Link Road (MAELR) corridor, to the south of Manchester. At the eastern end the corridor covers the A57/A630 dual carriageway and the area to the south of Sheffield.
Overlapping Corridor (E) – Starts heading south east before turning north east and passing to the north of Stocksbridge, crossing the peak district on a diagonal. This corridor connects around J25 of the M60 and also extends toward the MAELR corridor, to the south of Manchester. In the east, the corridor extends as far as the M1 in the area around the A616 and A61 at 35A and 36 respectively.
The strategic study into the tunnel is now in its second phase, after an interim report published in November 2015 found the scheme was feasible and had ‘a clear strategic case’.
In the final stage, due to be completed by the end of 2016, the strategic and economic cases for each option will be assessed and cost estimates will be provided.
The study is one of several being carried out by Highways England to inform the Road Investment Strategy 2 covering 2020 to 2025.