Five routes have been shortlisted for one of the most ambitious road schemes undertaken in the UK in more than five decades.
The 29km tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield could be a national first and almost halve journey times between the two cities, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
The Trans-Pennine tunnel study was launched by the Government in autumn 2015. It was one of a number of studies aimed at addressing some of the biggest challenges facing the road network in the UK.
The DfT said that this study showed the continued strong case for the tunnel which could provide safer, faster and more reliable journeys for motorists.
All five shortlisted routes join the M60 east of Manchester to the M1 north of Sheffield, with four options starting at the M67. The Department has estimated that the tunnel would see journey times cut by 30 minutes.
It said that the tunnel could provide an economic boost to the two cities as well as the surrounding area. The link, it said, would also help protect the environment by reducing traffic through the Peak District National Park, as well as support the government’s plan to build a Northern Powerhouse.
Transport minister John Hayes said: “I want people in the north of England to benefit from quicker, more reliable journeys. This study brings us a step closer to building a Trans-Pennine roads tunnel – it would be the most ambitious project since the construction of the first motorways 50 years ago.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) head of external affairs Marie-Claude Hemming added: “Ceca has long argued for investment in world-class infrastructure to ensure the UK remains an attractive place to live and work.
“As such we welcome the publication of these long awaited reports which will deliver this growth through quicker, more reliable journeys.”
However, Hemming said that in a time of economic constraint, it was imperative that the projects were completed with speed and efficiency.
“Ceca believes that in order to build these new routes on time and on budget, the DfT and its delivery partners must engage with their potential supply chains early in the development process and we are keen to offer any assistance needed,” she added.
The study is part of the Government’s next phase of road improvements, which will get underway from 2020. The current Road Investment Strategy period covers 2015 to 2020.
In the final stage of the study, which the DfT said is due to be completed by the end of 2016, the strategic and economic cases for each option will be assessed and cost estimates provided.