I was a latecomer to car culture, and still not that keen on the metal boxes so I’ve been attempting to get across the Pennines by bike or by public transport ever since I arrived in Sheffield in 1974.
I don’t think I ever got the chance to travel across the Woodhead line – I did go on a Charter train to Blackpool in the 1970’s which headed north from Victoria but I think it went via the Calder Valley.
Then, when I worked for a travel company in the 80’s we had an arrangement with a bus company who ran direct services to Manchester Airport – this was before the rail link was built – so used that a few times. I have a vivid memory of coming over the Woodhead and the spectacular view somewhat marred by pylons everywhere and of course the glowering skies meant you were west of the Pennines. And I’m very pleased to see that Hulleys are now running a bike-carrying bus service over the Snake but haven’t used that yet. (This service didn’t survive Covid unfortunately)
Occasionally in those days we would go to a concert in Manchester – it’s always had a better entertainment scene than Sheffield – and we would normally pile in a car to get over. It’s always been a difficult journey in winter but in those days there wasn’t the congestion around Mottram we see now. Now, there is normally a late train back but it goes a roundabout route to avoid potential engineering works and doesn’t run on Saturday nights so going to a concert often still involves travelling by car.
In terms of getting back from Manchester airport, the journey was a pain without a car. Arriving from a foreign bike tour, I would re-assemble my bike, cycle to Gatley and get a train to Piccadilly. From Picc back to Sheffield, if it was the first train in the morning, it would only get you as far as New Mills where you would sit around on a cold platform until another elderly DMU fired up from where it was hidden in the tunnel that was all that remained of the line to Hayfield (from where the Kinder Trespassers set off) and chuntered back stopping at all stations through the Hope Valley. Quite a tiring end to a journey that had started at midnight in Corfu airport!
With improvements to the Sheffield- Manchester service and the Trans Pennine Trail open, more journey opportunities opened up. I’ve done several trans-pennine journeys either travelling to Stockport, or to Manchester Airport (it’s only a few miles to the TPT) and cycling back to Sheffield via the Trail. The TPT is of mixed quality along this stretch, but Tameside country park and the Hyde Greenway are good. Subsequently you have a couple of stiff climbs on rough tracks and sections on main roads before you drop down to Glossopdale (an alternative might be possible via Gamesley sidings) where you cut through some housing before another on-road section to Hadfield. Here there is a lengthy detour via Tintwhistle which I can’t see the point of so I head for Hadfield station where I can get on the Longdendale trail. The surfaces on this aren’t brilliant but it’s far preferable to the alternative of the A628 or even the A57 via Glossop. If I was travelling across by bike on-road I would go via Chinley and Rushup Edge.
When we did the TPT from coast to coast we stayed in Glossop and found that it was a pleasant country town, far different from what we expected. We found a pub with unfeasibly cheap beer and had a very good Sri Lankan meal which was unexpected! Some members of the party stayed in Hadfield and found the train link very useful.
Further east at Torside, we are implementing accessibility improvements to the trail and the National Grid are undergrounding cables which will improve the visual amenity immensely.
There has been talk of opening one of the tunnels for cyclists, but with high-voltage cables installed this would be expensive and I can’t see it happening. The same argument applies to re-opening as a rail tunnels and they may not even be suitable for a modern high-speed railway such as HS3. Plus I think the Peak District needs a rest from development – we need it as a haven for our under-stress wildlife, not as a high-speed corridor between cities. Other routes are available.
Be that as it may, getting up onto the moors at Ironbower is a challenge – it is practically impossible to cycle up the steep track (Danny McAllister might be able to do it) although not that far to push. There is a gentler gradient from Woodhead Bridge but getting there entails a lengthy ride along the A628 unless you have come from Holme Moss, and the bridleway has a poor surface.
Subsequently you have two crossing of the A628 to negotiate before you can descend to Dunford Bridge where the Trail improves a lot.
Rail – getting to Glossop or Hadfield is a lengthy trek from Sheffield involving travelling via Man Picc. Re-opening the railway would make that easier but (a) there would either not be a trail to travel on, or it would be a less pleasant experience being next to the railway (b) I’m against it for the reasons stated above. Bike-carrying buses would seem to me to be the solution here.
My main purposes in driving this route have been (i) getting to the airport, usually to pick someone up or drop them off (ii) Going to North Wales (we used to use it also to get to West Wales but it is now quicker to go Derby & the M6 toll) via (iii) dropping off/picking up daughter at Uni in Manchester. I live close to the A57 in Sheffield so usually go across the Snake.
We are all well aware of the congestion problems at Mottram and I often turn left at Glossop and go via Charlesworth & Broadbottom (I know this route well from having used the TPT) This probably doesn’t save me any time but I prefer not to be sitting in a polluted traffic queue and it has stunning views.
I think that the traffic problem could be solved by some smart traffic modelling rather than building new roads, for example:-
Some of the vehicles are airport traffic that could and should go by rail.
A lot of the HGV traffic is travelling from Ireland to the East Coast ports and onward to Europe – why would we invest to facilitate this post-Brexit? It seems that this traffic might anyway divert to direct ferries to Europe, to avoid the new paperwork that is required and delays this will cause.
Then, a proportion of the traffic is light delivery vans travelling from distribution warehouses in Manchester to Yorkshire – the logistics industry could avoid this by reorganising their delivery patterns. As a Sheffield resident we are concerned about the additional traffic going through Broomhill and making it easier to access the Snake Pass is likely to increase this.
I think that Highways Agency are being disingenuous about this and either have not done their homework or are not putting it in the public domain. If the road does get built, however, I would like to see the best possible Active Travel facilities built into it.