Government body to examine case for tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield

Snake Pass in the High Peak. Picture Scott Merrylees
Snake Pass in the High Peak. Picture Scott Merrylees
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A Government body is to examine the case for an ambitious road link between Manchester and Sheffield

The National Infrastructure Commission will look into the viability of a multi-billion-pound Trans-Pennine tunnel and give advice to the Government on whether it should be one of its priorities for improving links between cities in the north.

It will examine an interim report by Highways England which found there is a ‘clear strategic case’ for a new road including a series of tunnels.

One of the longest road tunnels in Europe could form part of the plans.

Lord Adonis, chairman of the NIC, said:“It is time to make the North a powerhouse again – and we can only do that with a new era of infrastructure investment.

“The independent NIC will help unlock the jobs and growth of the future by considering how we do exactly that.

“The NIC will assess all the evidence and provide independent advice to government on the future priorities to improve connectivity amongst the great cities of the North, and this report will form an important part of that review.

“For too long, the British people have had to suffer from the delays, congestion and excessive journey times caused by successive governments failing to plan long term on big infrastructure projects.

“It’s time for a new approach, building broad consensus behind a long-term plan backed up with serious and sustained investment. That is what the National Infrastructure Commission will help create.”

The NIC was launched by Chancellor George Osborne in October to oversee £100 billion of spending on infrastructure projects.

Penny Marshall, director of the Institution of Civil Engineers Yorkshire and Humber, said a tunnel was the ‘obvious solution’ to improving the area’s roads.

She said: “A tunnel through the Pennines is the obvious solution, expanding the capacity of our road network, while protecting the unique and picturesque character of the Peak District above.

“The existing road routes between Sheffield and Manchester are already full, and are vulnerable to extreme winter weather conditions. It is time we looked at new ideas to improve connectivity.”

The Highways England report, which is considering factors including engineering challenges and funding, is expected to be completed by October 2016.