The 'clear strategic case' for a £6bn cross-Pennine part-tunnelled road corridor between Manchester and Sheffield could extend to a parallel rail link, a new report suggests.
The Department of Transport's recently-published 'Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study Interim Report' does not rule out the possibility of a dual rail and road corridor through the tunnelled section, with separate bores.
This it says 'could offer some additional benefits' although the operational case has yet to be established.
The M62 trans-Pennine route
The road aims to enhance the economic performance of both cities, cutting travel times between them by up to 30 minutes and reducing local congestion, as well as of the wider Northern Powerhouse region. Freight operators would be major beneficiaries.
In July 2015, the Department for Transport and Transport for the North (TfN) jointly commissioned Highways England to assess the feasibility of a new Trans-Pennine strategic highway route. The resulting report, representing an initial response, will be followed by a further, more detailed study in autumn 2016.
The new road will be between 40km-50km long, depending on route options yet to be decided, with the tunnelled section being between 20km and 30km, making it one of the longest road tunnels ever built.
The DfT expects to take advantage of experience gained from building the Laerdal Tunnel in Norway (one bore is of 24.5km) and the 18km Zhongnanshan Tunnel in China.
Some existing rail bores are much longer (eg the 50km Channel Tunnel) and the report sees 'no significant differences' between the two types in terms of construction.
For a possible rail component, the report sees it as 'unlikely that light rail could provide a practical solution, although planned tram/train connections between Sheffield and Rotherham 'might be worthy of more detailed consideration'.
There will be major environmental benefits for the Peak District National Park, through reducing its exposure to traffic and noise pollution, and avoiding the need for future road upgrades in this area in the medium-term. These could enhance the park's roles in conservation, recreation and tourism.