The Anonymous Widower

Could The Standedge Tunnels Be Part Of A High Speed Line?

This article on Rail Technology Magazine is entitled Warrington Borough Council React To Integrated Rail Plan, where this is said about improvements between Liverpool and Manchester via Warrington.

One such promise is the delivery of a new high-speed line between Warrington, Manchester and Marsden as part of NPR.

The IRP will also introduce a fully electrified upgraded line between Liverpool and Warrington as part of NPR.

Note NPR is Northern Powerhouse Rail.

Where Is Marsden?

This Google Map shows the rail line between the Standedge Tunnels and Marsden station.


  1. Standedge Tunnels and the Visitor Centre in the West.
  2. Marsden station in the South-East corner of the map.
  3. The railway between them is the Huddersfield Line.
  4. The distance between Marsden station and the Eastern Portals of the Standedge Tunnels is about a mile.

Huddersfield station is seven miles to the East of Marsden station.

The Eastern End Of The Standedge Tunnels

This Google Map shows the Eastern end of the Standedge tunnels.


  1. This is a 3D image tilted to give a possibly better view.
  2. Only a double-track railway and a canal tunnel are in daily use.
  3. There are two other disused but intact single-track rail tunnels.
  4. I suspect that the Tunnel End Reservoir keeps the canal water at the right level.

It looks to me that the Standedge Tunnels will be part of the proposed high speed route.

Greenfield Station

Greenfield station is to the West of the Western portal of the Standedge tunnels.

The distance between Greenfield and Marsden stations is six miles.

The Standedge Tunnels

Wikipedia has a very comprehensive description of the canal tunnel and the three rail tunnels that form the Standedge tunnels complex.

These are points from the entry.

  • The canal tunnel is the oldest and was opened in 1811.
  • The two single-track rail tunnels were opened in 1848 and 1871
  • The double-track rail tunnel opened in 1894.
  • The rail tunnels were all built using the canal tunnel for access.
  • All the tunnels are parallel to each other.
  • The tunnels are level.
  • All tunnels appear to be connected together with cross passages.
  • For safety reasons some diesel-powered boats are towed through the canal tunnel using electric tugs.
  • The railway tunnels were the only level section of the route and were fitted with water troughs for steam engines.
  • Drainage of the rail tunnels appears to be good, with water draining into the canal.
  • Only the 1894 tunnel is in use by trains, but all three rail tunnels are maintained.
  • The 1848 tunnel can be used for emergency access and is accessible to fire engines and ambulances.

The complex appears to be a masterpiece of nineteenth century engineering.

There are several factors that could enable the conversion of the rail tunnels into a high-capacity modern railway with speeds up to at least 100 mph.

  • The tunnels are level.
  • The tunnels are well-drained.
  • The access to the tunnels is good.
  • Slab track, which allows higher speeds could be installed in the tunnels, as it was in the Bowshank Tunnel on the Borders Railway.

But the biggest factor could be the possibility of using battery-electric trains to avoid electrification of the main lines, which as now would probably be in the double-track tunnel.

This Hitachi infographic describes their Intercity Battery Hybrid Train, which is based on a Class 802 train and they are developing in partnership with TransPennine Express.


  1. Greenfield and Marsden stations are only six miles apart.
  2. The tunnels are only a few metres longer than 5000 metres.
  3. The train may only be able to cover 5 km now, but I believe this could be increased.

I also wonder, if the electrification on either side could get as close to the tunnel as possible.

This would enable trains to drop pantograph at speed and switch to battery power a few metres from the tunnel and get to the other side using a mix of battery-power and kinetic energy. Once under the wires at the other side of the tunnel and they had slowed to a safe speed at which they could raise the pantograph, it would be raised and trains would continue using the electrification.

The operating speed would probably be determined by any curves at the ends of the straight and level tunnel.

This method of operation may be OK for expresses, but what about other passenger and freight trains?

I wonder, if it would be possible to put a third track in one of the other rail tunnels.

  • Slab-track would probably be installed.
  • This third track could be electrified.
  • It would be signalled to allow bi-directional running.

This by-pass tunnel could keep the main lines free for the expresses.


I am fairly sure that the Standedge Tunnels could be incorporated in a high speed line.


November 23, 2021 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. More information on Standedge tunnel at 42min 30sec

    Comment by Fenline Scouser | November 23, 2021 | Reply

  2. Also there have been previous proposals to re-open the older single tunnels

    Comment by Fenline Scouser | November 23, 2021 | Reply

    • Thanks!

      Comment by AnonW | November 23, 2021 | Reply

  3. Pretty tight curve (<250m) at the Marsden end, would limit speeds somewhat.

    Comment by R. Mark Clayton | November 23, 2021 | Reply

  4. If they’re going to run the High Speed line as far as Marsden, it would have to include the tunnels.

    Comment by AnonW | November 23, 2021 | Reply

  5. Interesting that a 20 mile high speed line is to be built from Leeds to the MML at Clayton north west of Doncaster. What would it take to get a high speed line from Marsden to branch into the line from Leeds to Clayton?

    What tunnelling? Getting rid of the Manchester HS2 10 mile tunnel would pay for it.

    Comment by John | November 24, 2021 | Reply

  6. Gareth Dennis is doing a “page turn” review of the IRP on his “Railnatter” podcast tonight (YouTube 19.00). It will be interesting to ascertain his view re Warrington – Marsden section.
    I reckon it could be a long episode!

    Comment by Fenline Scouser | November 24, 2021 | Reply

    • Also, have you noticed that page 136 onward of the IPR is written in terms of “Passengers COULD see”? Hardly very committal and given the time scale for delivery easy to kick further down the track.

      Comment by Fenline Scouser | November 24, 2021 | Reply

      • BY the time the IRP is completed few if us will still be alive.
        They go on about ‘capacity, capacity’. If the capacity was that bad it would have been done in a few years. It is near 8 years since the official announcement and will be 10 years before phase 1 is complete. Then the rest.

        Comment by John | November 24, 2021

    • He is boring anyway. He be paid to write and talk such nonsense.

      Comment by John | November 24, 2021 | Reply

  7. the case you make is so obvious i assumed this was already central to the whole NP-H and upgrade strategy. Why do anything else? The perrenial, sentimental arguments to re -build Woodhead, are pointless by comparison, and who would want / need to spend years drilling new tunnels through millstone grit when our recent rapid tunnel completions have involved chalk or clay under the channel and chilterns.

    Comment by mark imber | September 7, 2022 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: