Highways England and Transport for the North (TfN) have appointed WSP to undertake a technical study to strengthen the economic case for a new TransPennine route.
The in-depth report will take into account part-tunnel, part-surface route across the Pennines and assess the case for capacity improvements to adjacent sections of the strategic road network as well as strengthening links east to west of the route.
The work builds on studies already undertaken by the WSP team on behalf of Highways England and TfN that looked at the feasibility of a full tunnel route and alternatives to a full tunnel across the Pennines.
WSP project director Nasar Malik said: “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.”
Earlier this year TfN called for up to £70bn to be spent on infrastructure across the North over the next three decades.
The body gained statutory powers in April to oversee the investment programme along with other agencies including Highways England, Network Rail and the Department for Transport. The £70bn plans include also include a new rail line linking Manchester with Leeds via Bradford.
Last year one of the UK’s largest pension funds has called on the government to give the go-ahead to the £6bn TransPennine Tunnel.
Greater Manchester Pension Fund chair Kieran Quinn told Construction News that the “argument for the tunnel had been under-played” and said his fund would be willing to back the scheme if it went ahead.