(2) what assessment she has made of the most viable option for a new cross-Pennine rail link.[Official Report, 21 April 2008, Vol. 474, c. 8MC.]
The need for additional passenger capacity can best be met through the provision of longer carriages and faster journey times on the Manchester to Leeds via Huddersfield route.
Should additional capacity be required across the Pennines at some future date, capacity enhancements on the three existing Victorian tunnels on the Woodhead route would be considered first. This is because they are more likely to offer value for money than the re-opening of a fourth route.
I shall be meeting with National Grid to confirm that we would wish to explore the option of continued inspection and maintenance of the Woodhead tunnels once National Grid have vacated them.
I intend to meet key stakeholders for their views on transport challenges across the Pennines and how this might tie in with the development of a longer term strategy.