Pennines rail failure just as serious as HS2 inadequacies - YP Letters

From: William Wallace, Lord Wallace of Saltaire.

Your recent reports on the inadequacies of the Integrated Rail Plan for Yorkshire have focused on extending HS2 to Leeds from the south.

But the failure to transform rail capacity across the Pennines is as serious a setback.

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The proposed new trans-pennine line would have provided much-needed extra capacity, both for passenger trains and for freight, to get container traffic between our east and west coasts off the M62.

Railway lines between York and Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty.

The modest improvements to the Leeds-Manchester line via Huddersfield offered instead cannot provide the two additional lines required, since the Colne Valley is too narrow at several points.

Officials have suggested that a single additional two-way freight line might be squeezed in, but that would still leave a large question over the existing Standedge tunnels, which lack the space for electric wires and the continental gauge needed to accommodate containers.

That implies that new tunnels will have to be bored, which sharply raises the cost of improving that route.

The overall objective of Northern Powerhouse Rail is to provide fast and frequent trains between the north’s main cities, and also to open up freight paths across the Pennines.

That cannot be achieved without additional lines, through a different route than the Colne Valley.