Highways England has said there is a ‘strong strategic case’ for a TransPennine Tunnel between Sheffield and Manchester - but that it could take up to 25 years to build
Alan Shepherd, Highways England North-west regional director, told the AJ’s sister title Construction News that he hoped the chancellor would give the green light to the project in the Autumn Statement (23 November).
Speaking at the CN Summit 2016, he said that the project could be the world’s longest tunnel and Europe’s largest civil engineering project in the past 30 years.
Five routes were shortlisted for the proposed £6billion tunnel, which will link Manchester to Sheffield, in August this year.
Asked whether the UK had the correct skillset to deliver a major tunnelling project of this scale, Shepherd said HS2’s bidders and procurement were ’a good analogy’ for how the process would work.
Shepherd said Highways England would look at larger contractors to deliver the project in tandem with international firms, citing current Northern delivery partners Kier and a Balfour Beatty / Mott MacDonald joint venture.
He added: ’[But] if we need to get tunnellers in from Norway, we can do that.’
Shepherd was speaking alongside Scarborough Group joint chief executive Simon Marshall and Liverpool City Council assistant chief executive Catherine Garnell.
The panel agreed that east-west connectivity was vital for the Northern Powerhouse agenda, with a strong case for HS3.
Marshall said projects like the Ordsall Chord, which will link Manchester’s Victoria and Piccadilly stations, would ’lay the groundwork’ for better connectivity across the region.
He added that increased connectivity would make the North’s core cities even more attractive to international funders, and added that government support for schemes had helped his firm ’to go to the Far East with a clear message’ for investors.
Ordsall Chord Skanska Bam Nuttall CGI 1
Garnell said investment in Liverpool’s port would be just the start of the city’s investment in its infrastructure, with upcoming investments including a new cruise liner terminal to boost tourism in the city.
She added that the city is looking to secure additional government funding in the Autumn Statement for a major overhaul of its public realm, following on from an earlier £40m investment.