Under Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill will visit Queensbury Tunnel on Monday, June 23, following his speech in Leeds last month where he expressed the view that more disused railways have the potential to become dedicated cycleways.
Joining the Minister will be Gary Verity, chief wxecutive of Welcome to Yorkshire, as well as high-level representatives from Bradford and Calderdale councils.
Mr Goodwill’s visit follows an invitation from the Queensbury Community Heritage & Action Partnership (Q-CHAP) which is campaigning to preserve the tunnel for public benefit.
The tunnel could become an extension of the existing Great Northern Railway Trail which has been created by Sustrans and Bradford Council.
The mile-and-a-half long structure would link the Trail to Holmfield and Halifax, and has the potential to be a vital part of the region’s growing cycle network.
The Highways Agency will soon undertake an engineering survey to assess the cost of repairs needed to safeguard properties above the tunnel.
Then the decision has to be made either to seal and abandon the tunnel, or undertake the works in a way that preserves the passageway through which, in Q-CHAP’s view, needs to be protected until the next stage of a cycleway project can begin.
The Highways Agency report is expected in the autumn and the timing of the Minister’s visit is critical: the position of the Department for Transport will influence the decision-making process.
While the Highways Agency does not have the remit to develop a cycleway through the tunnel, Sustrans is keen to follow on and undertake the necessary works as long as the brick and stone lining can be made structurally sound.
Several other former railway tunnels have benefited from similar projects and there is growing evidence that such routes give a good return for the money spent on them.
As well as providing safe, off-road options for commuters and leisure users, they are a big attraction for visitors, helping to boost local trade and tourism.
Q-CHAP is hoping the Minister will agree that Queensbury Tunnel is a great asset for Yorkshire. As a legacy of the Tour de France, it could boost cycling and walking in a beautiful corner of the county, as well as standing testimony to the local textile and transport heritage for many generations to come.
Norah McWilliam, who leads Q-CHAP, said: “2018 will be the 140th anniversary of the tunnel’s opening. Given the go-ahead, we think Bradford and Halifax could become proud joint hosts to a fantastic sporting event - the Queensbury Tunnel Triathlon. Why not? This is a once-only opportunity to ensure a fantastic piece of our industrial past plays a key role in our transport future. We need to grab that opportunity with both hands.”