The Woodhead Tunnels are to be sealed, quashing hopes of the reopening of the railway line linking Glossop with Sheffield.
Transport Minister Stephen Hammond announced last week that the government would not be buying the three trans-Pennine tunnels from National Grid, prompting fears that they will fall into disrepair.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “After careful consideration we have decided not to purchase the tunnels and spend taxpayers’ money on inspecting and maintaining them.
“The money will be better spent in enhancing the existing rail network in the north like the work currently underway on the Northern Hub.
“Sealing the tunnels does not rule out the Woodhead route from being reopened in the long term.
“New tunnels could be bored to meet the higher standards required and with advances in tunnelling technology could well be more cost-effective than rebuilding the existing tunnels.”
The Woodhead line runs from Manchester to Sheffield but closed between Hadfield and Penistone in 1981.
The third tunnel, pictured above, opened in 1953.
Action groups such as Re-open the Woodhead Line have campaigned for the reconnection of the train line to reduce the environmental impact of transporting people and freight across the southern Pennines.
The campaigners, headed by chairman David Bryson, also believe reopening the line would create a means of access to the northern half of the Peak District National Park for non-car users, cyclists and the disabled, as well as improve access to employment between Longdendale and Greater Manchester.
In September, Martin Porter, the transport campaigner for Glossopdale Transition Initiative, urged Glossop residents via his blog to write to High Peak MP Andrew Bingham to save the tunnels.
In his email to the MP he said: “Like so much of what is best about Glossop, these tunnels are the legacy of the forward thinking and sound engineering of our Victorian ancestors.
“They should not be discarded lightly.”