Government publishes options for £1bn tunnel to Yorkshire

Five routes have been shortlisted for the Trans-Pennine road tunnel proposed to link the M60 east of Manchester with the M1 north of Sheffield, with the potential to halve journey times.

A 121-page report published by government today presents the findings of a six-month study into the civil engineering project, assessing issues including public acceptance of the different routes, difficulty of excavation and impact on the environment. This report will be followed by another later this year looking at economic benefits of each route.

The report’s authors point out that funding has not been examined in great detail and the likely sources and models for financing the project are not yet clear. The expected cost for each route is described as “well in excess of £1bn” and the cost risk as “high” due to lack of detailed plans. The tunneling work is expected to take at least 10 years to complete.

There were initially 36 routes examined, narrowed down to 12 and then to the five shortlisted that were deemed to be most easily deliverable with minimum adverse impact.

Highways England said the link would help protect the environment by reducing traffic through the Peak District National Park, as well as support the government’s plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.

Transport Minister John Hayes said today: “I want people in the North of England to benefit from quicker, more reliable journeys. Today’s study brings us a step closer to building a Trans-Pennine roads tunnel – it would be the most ambitious project since the construction of the first motorways 50 years ago.”

John Cridland, chairman of Transport for the North, added: “The study shows a tunnel beneath the Pennines would both boost the economy of the region, and potentially benefit the environment of the Peak District by reducing traffic in the national park.

“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 & Investment Strategy to connect the North and transform its economy.”

The study is part of the government’s next phase of road improvements, which will get underway from 2020. The current Road Investment Strategy period covers 2015 to 2020.

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