There is a “strong strategic case” to be made for a proposed £6 billion new highway project in the north of England that would see one of the world’s longest tunnels built under the Pennines range, Highways England has said.
Speaking on a panel at Construction News’ CN Summit 2016, north-west regional director at the organisation Alan Shepard said the proposed route, which would link Manchester and Sheffield, will offer a major boost to the region’s economy, and encouraged chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond to give the scheme the green light in the upcoming Autumn Statement.
Such a move would make a major investment in transport infrastructure in the region, with the projected costs making it Europe’s largest civil engineering project for 30 years.
If it gets the go-ahead, it could take between 20 and 25 years to complete due to the complexities of constructing such a long road tunnel beneath the Pennines.
Earlier this year, a shortlist of five routes for the scheme were proposed by the Department for Transport, that would connect the M60 to the M1. The scheme is expected to reduce journey times between Manchester and Sheffield by around 30 minutes.
The panel agreed that improving east-west connectivity will be vital if the government’s Northern Powerhouse project to reinvigorate the region’s economy is to be successful.
Scarborough Group joint chief executive Simon Marshall, for example, stated that better connectivity will make cities in the area more attractive to international investors.
He added that projects such as Manchester’s Ordsall Chord, which will link the city’s Victoria and Piccadilly stations, will lay the groundwork for better infrastructure connectivity in the region, while longer-term initiatives such as the HS3 line will also have an essential role to play in the north of England’s future prosperity.