Trans-Pennine Woodhead rail tunnels not to reopen

The western end of the Woodhead tunnels The three tunnels were built for rail travel between Manchester and Sheffield

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Two Victorian rail tunnels in the Pennines are not to be reopened.

Transport Minister Stephen Hammond made the decision not to buy the Woodhead tunnels, between South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, from owners National Grid.

The tunnels formed a section of the old Woodhead Line, which was closed in 1981.

Campaigners had hoped the line could reopen with a newer tunnel built in 1953 used for trains and the Victorian ones used for electricity cables.

High voltage cables


Woodhead tunnel
  • The two Victorian tunnels were part of the Sheffield, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Railway
  • The ground was first broken in 1838
  • 1,500 men were said to be employed on the tunnel at the construction's peak
  • The first tunnel opened in 1845 and the second in 1852
  • The 1953 tunnel was part of the first British mainline railway to be electrified

Sources: Engineering Timelines and Forgotten Relics

Mr Hammond said alternative schemes such as the Hope Valley route could accommodate the predicted growth in rail travel between Manchester and Sheffield.

He said his decision did not rule out the possibility of reopening the Woodhead route to rail traffic in future.

But, if an additional rail route was ever required on the route, the best solution was most likely to be the construction of a new tunnel, Mr Hammond said.

National Grid bought the three-mile (4.8km) tunnels in the 1960s and installed high voltage cables to transmit electricity.

In 1981 National Grid also purchased the modern tunnel to install new cables, planning to abandon the Victorian tunnels when the cables needed renewing.

National Grid began work on this project in 2007 and it is close to completion.

Campaigners had been hoping to reopen the line and improve transport links between Manchester and Sheffield.

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