A Huddersfield rail expert has signalled alternative plans to set up a new high-speed rail link to create a ‘northern powerhouse’.
University lecturer, Dr Paul Salveson, said that the suggestion made by George Osborne last week to create a HS3 service from Leeds to Manchester was a positive step forward but that more options need to be considered to ensure that upgrades benefit local people and communities.
Following the speech made by Osborne at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, Paul said that the new high-speed link should not use the existing Transpennine routes but bypass the town by using the disused Peak District Woodhead line, which could link the two cities together with Sheffield.
The line from Sheffield via Penistone to Hadfield was closed in 1970, whilst the section from Glossop to Manchester is still in operation.
He believes that this will help reduce congestion along Huddersfield routes and make it possible to open new stations, whilst allowing for improvements to be made on existing services along the Transpennine mainline route, which connects the town to Leeds, Dewsbury, Stalybridge and Manchester.
Paul, who has been a critic of existing HS2 plans, which he believes would not benefit the north under current plans, said: “I think it’s positive that Osborne has recognised the importance of connection up the big conurbations of the north with a high speed service.
“However, I think we should have an open mind about how this route should be constructed.
“The suggestion in Osborne’s speech is clearly to use the existing ‘Diggle Route’ via Stalybridge and Huddersfield for the upgraded ‘high-speed’ line but I don’t think that adding an additional service will help with the problem of congestion which already exists along the route.
“Electrification of the line won’t reduce this congestion and the introduction of a new high speed service along the route could disadvantage people who use its smaller stations as they are sidelined in favour of the service.
“Instead, why not create a partial new alignment which uses the disused double track Woodhead route, which could connect Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield?
“It could be widened to four tracks out of Manchester and trains could reach speeds on it of up to 150mph, whilst east of Woodhead Tunnel, the route to Leeds could diverge in a north-easterly direction whilst a fast route to Sheffield would head south.
“This would be able to be connected via HS2 and would also allow positive improvements to be made to the current Transpennine mainline that uses Standedge tunnel, which would make rail travel better for local commuters.
“We need to introduce more carriages per train along the routes, not more services, and by using a different route for HS3 there is a greater likelihood that we could work on opening up more local stations in Milnsbridge/Golcar and in Diggle.”
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