Thursday, December 13, 2007
We've had some good news this week. A new group - Save the Woodhead Tunnel has emerged to oppose National Grid's plans to vandalise the Woodhead Tunnel. There's a website, and there's an inaugural meeting in Glossop next Tuesday to which anyone interested in opposing the effective destruction of this vital resource is invited to attend.
But they're not the only ones. The Campaign for Better Transport is highlighting the tunnel as part of a campaign to reinstate disused railways, and the Guardian were on the case earlier this week. The Save Woodhead site also points us to a petition to reopen the railway on pm.gov.uk.
Rather predictably riding on the coat-tails of this are politicians. Is anyone surprised that Tom Levitt has an article in this week's Glossop Advertiser pledging his support (a regurgitation of his press release)? There's a deliciously ironic quote in there:
"As transport and climate change issues grow in importance and priority, the chance of taking thousands of tons of freight off our roads and putting it on rail on this important transpennine route must be preserved"
This is the same MP that fully supports the Longdendale Bypass, and has stated in the past that use of the Woodhead Line would not come fast enough for his liking, and that was why he preferred the bypass. A scan of his column from the Glossop Chronicle of 7th December 2006 - 'Bypass plan will come before rail' - is here. The irony is that it looks increasingly unlikely that the Bypass will not be delivered inside the 10 years that Levitt said the Woodhead proposal should deliver by in order to receive his support.
Returning to his press release, what the government said 5 weeks ago with the release of their 'sustainable transport system' paper is the opposite of what we want and what his quote says he wants. Levitt knows that he cannot afford to be silent locally on this issue since it arouses such strong feelings, and it looks like this is his last tenure in office in High Peak. Of course, it is quite possible that he and other politicians may want to see a revival of Woodhead as well as a bypass, in order to massively increase freight capacity through the area. This may explain why the sponsor of an Early Day Motion condemning National Grid's plans for Woodhead, is none other than Graham Stringer, a former Chair of Manchester Airport, a company who would be all for anything that increases their business opportunities at any cost.
Activists should be reminded that this campaign will only succeed in spite of politicians, not because of them. If predictions we have heard are true, then National Grid plan to move very soon, and an appropriately effective response should be considered, not one that dithers.
Meanwhile, we will watch developments with much interest...