Government officials are assessing the possibility of a road tunnel under the Pennines to help fill a significant gap in England's strategic road network.
The Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for the North (TfN) have commissioned a strategic study into on the viability of a Trans-Pennine Tunnel as identified in the Roads Investment Strategy published in December 2014.
A £1.3m contract has been awarded to a Mouchel/Hyder joint venture for professional services to assist Highways England with the study, which is one of a number being carried out to identify solutions to congestion problems and support economic growth.
The study will investigate the strategic and economic case for a new high-standard highway route between Manchester and Sheffield, including assessing the potential opportunities of combining with a rail or light rail link. It is expected that the new route will cross the Pennines and the Peak District National Park by means of a road tunnel several miles long.
Road Minister Andrew Jones said: "Today’s announcement will look at building stronger links between Manchester and Sheffield, meaning more jobs and opportunities for people across the region."
The Roads Investment Strategy highlighted a connectivity gap between Sheffield and Manchester, pointing out that the direct route between the two cities is 35 miles long but traffic on the M62 motorway - the only high-performance trans-Pennine route - must travel more than 65 miles.
Dr Jon Lamonte, lead officer for Transport for the North, commented: "We welcome this important milestone and look forward to the commencement of the study which is a key element of both the RIS 1 programme and Transport for the North’s longer-term transport strategy as set out in March 2015. We look forward to continued working with Highways England and the Department for Transport to deliver the vision for a Northern Powerhouse."