Across the Pennines

“It’s not for using, it’s for selling!” Many years ago I remember attending a presentation by a company selling software for the very early personal computers; older readers will recall those machines with green screens and floppy disks. Someone had asked what a particular software was used for only to provoke that classic put-down from the sales director. This story came back to me when I read about the latest proposals to upgrade cross-Pennine transport links.

We have been here before of course. There has been talk of re-opening the Woodhead railway line, digging a rail tunnel, digging a road tunnel, even having a combined road and rail tunnel from Junction 36 of the M1 to the M67 east of Manchester. So far none of these have come to pass and still drivers frequently find their plans frustrated when the A57 and A628 are closed because of snow, high winds or are obstructed by vehicles. This year we even saw the M62 closed for over a day because it had snowed in winter! The cost to business of closures and delays when the roads become linear car parks is impossible to quantify. Not only does bad weather interrupt traffic flow but even a small accident or broken down vehicle can cause delays running into hours and frustrating the plans of tens of thousands of travellers.

Many readers will have experienced difficulty in crossing the Pennines to Manchester Airport but at least here there might be some light at the end of the tunnel. Plans recently unveiled to build a railway station at Robin Hood Airport and for fourfold increase in its passenger numbers by 2037 will eventually provide an alternative for people in South Yorkshire.

But what is proposed for the cross-Pennine links. There is talk of crawler lanes on the A628 which will allow for safer overtaking of slow moving lorries on some uphill stretches and finally some action to relieve the bottles-necks at Mottram Moor. Closer to home we might see some improvement from changes to the A61 between Junction 36 and the Westwood roundabout. Two possible schemes and in both cases it would involve the road being changed to a dual carriageway but one option would allow vehicles to cross the central reservation which is surely fraught with risks given the speed of traffic.

There is of course a risk that even these modest proposals will lead to more traffic using villages in the Penistone area as short cuts. However, some improvements are long overdue but let us hope these latest plans are not just for talking about.

First published by the Barnsley Chronicle - Penistone Living April 2018