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The Trans Pennine tunnel – connecting Manchester and Sheffield

Last week the latest report on the £6Bn Trans Pennine tunnel was released by DfT.

This update provided us with an overview of the 5 shortlisted options that will be considered further with a preferred option put forward in a final report, completed by October of this year.

The DfT and TfN have outlined their vision for transforming connectivity in the North through their One North, and One Agenda report.

These reports, compiled by the northern city regions, HM Government and the national delivery agencies, set out how enhancing transport linkages between northern cities are essential to boosting productivity, investment and employment, and delivering the Northern Powerhouse.

The case for the Trans-Pennine tunnel sits around two key arguments:

  • The number, capacity, and reliability of east-west road connections is a constraint on the northern economy
  • There are areas of severe congestion on the road network, with high demand for freight from northern ports

Current road linkages between two of the main urban centres, Manchester and Sheffield, are among the worst in the country in terms of capacity, journey times, safety and reliability. This is made worse by the fact that rail connections between the two cities are also considered to be too slow.

The current route across the Pennines provides an opportunity to bask in the The Pennines stunning landscape of the peak district, and is, on a nice day a journey that you can really enjoy.

Roads such as the Woodhead pass can and often are adversely affected by the weather, making them treacherous stretches of roads.

I’m probably one of the few lucky ones to have never experienced a problem on this journey and been able to truly enjoy the drive!

But enjoying the scenery does not help an area prosper, and a route that improves safety, improves connectivity and does not adversely affect the environment is one that the area has been crying out for, for a number of years.

The DfT report highlights how much these roads are affected, and states that the current corridor (the A57/A628/A616/A61) experiences a road closure every 11 days. To compound this 36% of these closures are longer than 5 hours. That roughly translates to 3 closures a month, 1 of which is over 5 hours!!

The tunnel would through improvements to the routes reliability and resilience to the region’s adverse weather, greatly reduce this, and as such drivers safety will be a major winner. Journey times reduced by 30 minutes will be an added bonus.

The Northern Powerhouse

A key part of the Northern Powerhouse, the report discusses, and considers how other aspects of the One North vision impacts upon the tunnel. Key synergies with rail are looked at, and will be considered in much greater detail within the final report.

Manchester Airport is also mentioned as a consideration to the potential strategic and economic case. With a potential HS2 station, and proposals for an Airport City and Enterprise Zone, connectivity to the area will be of great importance to unlock its potential.

The Northern Powerhouse has a strong emphasis on improving inter-city rail links. HS3 and the Manchester to Leeds link being central to this.

The report discusses the opportunity to improve the inter-city rail links between Manchester and Sheffield through additional bored tunnels for rail-based solutions.

The final report will look at this in more detail, even considering light rail as a mode of transport.

The tunnel

Potential routes for the runnelFrom the 36 routes identified 5 have been shortlisted following the initial EAST assessment.

Corridor B was deemed the most viable with the greatest advantages and east of construction in comparison to other corridors, closely followed by Corridor C. Route 4 situated within corridor A, however, has not been discounted for economic reasons.

Targeted to be underway in 2020, the route will join the M60 east of Manchester to the M1 north of Sheffield. Dependant on the route the total route will span between 23 nd 36 miles, with a tunnel ranging from 10 to 18 miles.

The geology of the region makes it suitable for bored tunnels, and the report goes on to consider the use of TBMs as the likely preferred construction method.

With a potential sneak peek at a procurement strategy, there’s mention of dividing the route into 6-7 mile sections as we’ve seen on a number of mega projects such as Tideway.

The tunnel will have a designed operational life of 120 years, with the design required to anticipate radical changes in technology and tunnel use. Automated cars being the obvious technological improvement that needs to be considered, but it wouldn’t surprise me that in 2030 my iphone37 will be such an integral part of the journey that this will also need to be considered!

As well as advancements in technology, the report states that design considerations should include a UK-based research project on driver behaviour in a long tunnel. We could have a tunnel similar to the Zhongnanshan Tunnel to mitigate the effects of claustrophobia, disorientation, and tiredness that such a long tunnel could cause.

how it could look inside the tunnel

With the final report identifying a preferred route due later this year and construction due to be underway in 2020, procurement for the design and construction of the route could begin as early as next year. Now is the perfect time for your organisation to consider what opportunity this provides you, and to being the development of your winning work strategy.

At Invennt we  support clients across a number of mega projects do just this at tier 1 and tier 2 through to product manufacturers. If you would like to discuss how we may be able to help your organisation unlock the opportunities the Trans Pennine tunnel offers please get in touch at Ben.Pritchard@invennt.com or on 07961071166.

Ben Pritchard

Ben joined invennt from Magnox Ltd where as a Framework manager in the Nuclear Decommissioning sector he led the procurement and commercial management of a range of frameworks and projects covering demolition, new construction, refurbishment and retrieval, processing and conditioning of waste.

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