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New hope for doomed Yorkshire rail tunnel

Campaigners hoping to reopen the disused Woodhead rail tunnel in South Yorkshire were given fresh hope last week after the Department for Transport (DfT) promised to reconsider the need for a freight line through it.

More than 70 MPs have lobbied the DfT for the tunnel near Sheffield to be safeguarded after it emerged that tunnel owner National Grid planned to run cables through it.

Campaigners claim this would drastically reduce the tunnel's rail capacity and prevent the reopening of the Woodhead line as part of a trans- Pennine rail freight link (NCE 31 January 2008).

Transport minister Rosie Winterton said last week in a parliamentary debate on Woodhead Tunnel that she would not stand in the way of the National Grid running cables through it but she insisted that it could still be reopened as a rail tunnel.

"National Grid's plans will not jeopardise the possibility that the Woodhead tunnel route will reopen to rail traffic at some future dates," said Winterton.

"Reversing the process remains a possibility if growth in demand requires a fourth rail route across the Pennines.

"But this depends on National Grid continuing to maintain two nearby Victorian tunnels so that these take the cables instead."

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