WSP has been appointed by Highways England to undertake a technical study to strengthen the strategic and economic argument for a package of transport schemes, including a part-tunnel, part-surface route across the Pennines.
The in-depth Trans-Pennine Tunnel Study report will also assess the case for capacity improvements to adjacent sections of the strategic road network, as well as new strategic links to the east and west of the route.
The work builds on studies already undertaken by the WSP team on behalf of Highways England and Transport for the North (TfN) that looked at the feasibility of a full tunnel route and alternatives to a full tunnel across the Pennines.
“If a stronger case can be made for this package of schemes then this may be the single most important transport intervention to help accelerate the economic growth by bringing closer together two of the north’s great cities,” said WSP project director Nasar Malik.
WSP’s role involves specialists from a number of its teams including: transport planning, transport modelling, environmental assessment, project programme and risk management.
One of the challenges facing the WSP team is the scheme passing through the Peak District National Park, which will require high-quality environmental design considerations to be embedded in the project from the outset. WSP has already proposed to involve Highways England’s design panel; unusual for such an early stage of a scheme. The team is also bolstered by a specialist contractor commissioned by WSP to provide a challenge on the scheme costs, providing robust evidence that will be particularly useful for financial forecasting.
Malik added: “This study essentially flows from the recommendations we made on the TfN Wider Connectivity study in 2017. “The knowledge and experience we brought from the initial Trans-Pennine Tunnel study, as well as the subsequent Wider Connectivity study for TfN, demonstrated our experience and credentials in this specialist area.
“It is gratifying to see the recommendations from our earlier study having been accepted in full and then Highways England appointing WSP to undertake this follow-on study.”