Letter: Trans-Pennine route: Here we go again

Anne Robinson, Friends of the Peak District: Letter to the Editor about the DfT’s Trans-Pennine Feasibility Study published in in Local Transport Today (LTT 643 21st March- 3rd April 2014, page 18).

“Sixty years of aspirations for an all-weather fast route across the Peak District linking the M1 and the M67 have been whittled down from a motorway in the 1970s and a dual carriageway in the 1990s to a rejected bypass but the cycle is now repeating itself with calls for all three options and even a tunnel under the Pennines (DfT Studies how to boost road capacity across Peak District, LTT 07-20 March 2014).

That this route is considered a ‘notorious hotspot’ reflects the nature of its problems, which are complex, multifactorial and not easily resolvable as the Highways Agency’s past work has shown. Only a minority of traffic crosses the Pennines. The ‘notorious hotspot’ at Mottram is created by local journeys with a relatively high proportion of HGVs. Reducing such congestion requires the synergy of a combination of measures including active and smarter choice travel, better public transport, traffic restraint, management of road freight and centralised land-use development. Instead the only solution that has been seriously considered is increased road capacity which would only worsen traffic impacts in the area. Once again it is being rolled out by the DfT.

What everyone seems to have forgotten in the rush for greater economic connectivity is that 12 miles of the route lies within the Peak District National Park. The prime purpose of any transport intervention in this corridor must be to protect and enhance the outstanding environment of the National Park on which its economy depends. In 2012 the Park generated a combined annual turnover of more than £1.1 billion. This completely swamps the calculated value of the time savings from greater connectivity across the Pennines of £1.2bn over 60 years, referred to in the LTT article. The value of the Park to the UK economy is worth so much more than any financial sum, which cannot take into account non-monetised benefits such as the health and wellbeing of residents and visitors, and far outweighs the economic benefits of time savings on rail and road routes crossing the Pennines.

What is required now is not another study but implementation of small scale measures along the route, proposed so often but ignored, that would immediately alleviate problems at small financial cost. If this approach proves ineffective then a multimodal study that addresses local, commuter, visitor and freight movements in and around the Southern Pennines including the M62, and that objectively appraises all options, is required. With the environment of a National Park at stake, nothing less will do.”

Anne Robinson is one of the environmental representatives on the stakeholder group for the DfT/Highways Agency feasibility study on the transpennine corridor being undertaken in 2014, alongside Lillian Burns NW CPRE and Anthony Rae, Friends of the Earth. More information: anaerobe@clara.co.uk