Friday, November 16, 2007
Regular readers will be aware that we've written several times over the past few months about the plans that National Grid have to move high voltage cables into the 1954 tunnel at Woodhead, thereby ending any possible future use for the purposes it was built for - train travel and freight on the rails.
Over the past couple of months, things have got worse. In July, a variety of organisations joined with the Peak District National Park Authority to make representations about the threat posed by National Grid's intentions.
But by September, the Government had indicated it had no intention to intervene in the issue. Whilst this was reported and lamented over the other side of the Pennines, the local press over this side has been silent, until prompted by local campaigners. Indeed, the only other reference we can find to this issue locally is on Councillor McKeown's blog (upon which we blogged pointing out the contradictions inherent in the argument the Councillors put forward).
You don't have to be as cynical as we are to see how these delays have conveniently coincided with the Highways Agency's successful attempts to stall the Bypass Public Inquiry. The delays have meant that the timetable for the discussion of alternatives like the Translink proposal has been set further and further back. To those following the PI, it has been clear that the Inspector is keen to hear all about Translink, and he has made a lot of room for them.
But the clincher lies in National Grid's timetable for the planned legal vandalism. Whilst the PDNPA hint that the work will begin within the next 5 to 10 years, we have it on good authority that they are in fact due to start in February 2008. With the latest PI delays, there is no chance that the case for the alternatives will be held before then.
What is at stake in this veritable game of chess should not be underestimated. There is an already existing transpennine route that would require little comparable effort and expense to resurrect, utilising a comparatively environmentally friendly and sustainable mode of transport - which is badly needed. All of which is under threat from a multinational corporation whose only concern and responsibility is returning profits to shareholders. All of which is based on promoting the growth of unsustainable energy use.
We've already pointed out that the Government has indicated that it wants more roads and is indifferent about Rail. The High Peak MP, Tom Levitt, is busy attaching himself to a green energy project that's a drop in the ocean as to what's required to turn things around. But at the same time, he fully backs one massively environmentally damaging project (the Bypass) and remains silent about environmental vandalism (the closure of the Tunnel). What is accrued through this 'business as usual' approach is a huge pile of bullshit that the State is inclined paint bright green. But it still smells like bullshit to us.
There should be a huge head of steam built up around this issue (pardon the pun), not just here, but throughout the North West of England. But time is short. Bold action and initiatives are needed to prevent the destruction of a badly needed form of sustainable transport. Will we show willing? If you want to help, please get in touch. And watch this space for more news.