Truck to track drive to solve HGV gridlock
Monday 11th December 2017 @ 08:15 by Adam Higgins
Longdendale News

A revolutionary scheme to take trucks packed with freight off local roads and onto trains going under the Pennines is being proposed by a former engineer.

Julian Newton, CEO of the Grand Northern Group Ltd, says the move would remove 150,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year from the atmosphere.

He says it would also have the capacity to take more than 90 per cent of HGVs currently going through Tintwistle, Hollingworth and Mottram.

Julian, who lives in Hollingworth and sees road congestion every day, said: “It really is a win-win situation.”

The cost of the journey which would link Manchester to Sheffield would be about £130, around the price truck drivers pay to cross the Channel.

And once the line is open, it could easily carry people as well as cargo.

His Grand Northern Rolling Highway would see lorries rolling onto railway bogies on a stretch of track at Bredbury Sidings, close to Junction 25 of the motorway and be taken on an electrically fed line all the way to Woodhead.

The route would be through Woodley to Hyde where it would join the Manchester to Hadfield line.

Julian says 30 miles of new track would be needed – but the land is available.

Part of it would have to be laid along the Longdendale Trail, which was built on the former track bed of the line from Hadfield through the tunnel.

A new trail would be laid at the side of the track.

The line would go under the Pennines through a re-opened Woodhead Tunnel coming out at Tinsley.

The tunnel, which opened in the 1950s but later closed in the 1980s, first to passenger traffic and then to freight, now carries power cables.

But Mr Newton says these could go through Woodhead’s older tunnels.

There would have to be some configuration of the 1950s tunnel to cope with the increased height of the loads.

Mr Newton said he came up with the scheme several years ago, but says he didn’t win support from then Stalybridge and Hyde MP James Purnell, who was pushing for the Longdendale bypass.

On the CO2 reduction levels, he said it would improve the environment.

People’s health would improve, which in turn would ease financial pressures on the NHS, he says.

Mr Newton’s confidence that the ‘highway’ will happen has been boosted by Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling’s recent proposals to re-open closed lines.

Mr Newton is reluctant to go into how much the scheme will cost, or when work could start or finish.

Regarding paying for the work, Mr Newton said that he would first require a sovereign guarantee, essentially ‘a piece of paper from the Government’ supporting it, which could guarantee a low interest borrowing from the bank to finance the project with a Government under-writing guarantee.

Mr Newton says the proposals would include plans to add East West Coast Intermodal Freight and Intercity Passenger rail services, which would bring an economic benefit of over £3.5bn regionally and £10bn nationally.