Call for fresh approach over better transpennine road links

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MINISTERS have been urged to take a broad view of transpennine road links as the Government considers options for improving journeys between South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.

Barnsley councillors want the Government to take a comprehensive view of roads connecting the M1 and M67 in east Manchester rather than focusing solely on the A628 Woodhead Pass.

A Highways Agency plan for a bypass scheme on the A628 in Greater Manchester was scrapped five years ago after the estimated cost grew from £200m to £300m and little progress has been made since.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is now expected to commission a fresh study on the options available which will report in the autumn before Ministers take decisions about future road investment.

Roy Miller, Barnsley Council cabinet spokesman for development, environment and culture, said: “Barnsley Council has always recognised that while progression of a bypass for Mottram and Tintwhistle, which lie to the west of the borough on the A628, was crucially important, there are wider issues that need to be addressed along the whole of the route between the M1 in Barnsley and the M67 in Manchester.”

A study commissioned by councils in the area and published almost two years ago estimated that cutting journey times across the Pennines by 15 minutes would benefit the economy by around £1.2 billion over a 60 year period.

A report to be considered by senior Barnsley councillors next week will highlight the improvements to North-South travel expected from the new HS2 high speed rail line but warn investment also needed on east-west routes to “complete the ‘triangle’ of connectivity between Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield City Regions”.

It adds: “The seriousness of the problems of the existing Woodhead Pass corridor are such that a piecemeal approach to making improvements along the corridor is no longer an option, as existing problems of congestion, air quality, road safety will simply be transferred to other parts of the route.

“A new approach therefore needs to be considered to provide a new viable route across the Pennines between Sheffield and Manchester City Regions.”

The Woodhead Pass corridor is currently the only option for crossing between South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester suitable for all vehicle classes.

But it faces significant limitations in terms of the amount of traffic it can carry and its vulnerability to weather and closure due to other incidents.

The Woodhead Pass has been closed on 27 occasions in the last year alone because of the weather or accidents.

A meeting was held last month between Roads Minister Stephen Hammond MP and key figures from the area including MPs from both side of the Pennines, and senior Barnsley, Sheffield and Rotherham councillors.

It is hoped the new DfT study will include both the Woodhead Pass corridor and the A628 between junction 37 of the M1 and Flouch.

Councillors also want the study to take into account the impact of slow journey times on the economy of the area and the potential that could be unleashed by a comprehensive package of measures.

If senior councillors approve the move next week, Barnsley Council will begin a consultation seeking views on how to improve transpennine road links so that it can make its case to the Government over the summer.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to make announcements about funding for future road schemes in his autumn statement later this year.

james.reed@ypn.co.uk