The campaign group leading calls for Queensbury Tunnel to be used as part of a cycle path connecting Bradford and Halifax haa called on Transport Scretary Chris Grayling MP to intervene in the issue.
Bradford Council’s Leadership Team met with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, on Friday and pushed for him to intervene in the Queensbury Tunnel debate.
The Council want to be given enough time to properly assess the potential for it to be turned into Europe’s longest cycleway.
Bradford Council is currently investigating the condition of the tunnel and early indications suggest that closing or restoring the tunnel will cost more than the £3m budget currently allocated to Highways England, who are responsible for the tunnel.
Highways England want to fill sections of the tunnel with concrete and seal it up, in the face of local opposition led by the Queensbury Tunnel Society, who believe that the opportunity to create a cycleway connecting Bradford and Calderdale needs to be fully explored.
Coun Ross-Shaw said: “I’ve asked Chris Grayling tointervene and ensure we have enough time to do some proper feasibility work on turning Queensbury Tunnel into a cycleway. It’s clear the costs of restoring or sealing the tunnel are going to be more than Highways England have allocated and the tunnel is not at risk of collapse, so it’s important we take the opportunity to get a better indication of the opportunities and costs available.”
Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, Bradford Council Leader, said: “Chris Grayling listened carefully to our arguments and we are hopeful that he will feel able to intervene with Highways England so that they will see sense. It’d be a great cycle route for the whole region and it’s really captured the community’s imagination.”
In response to Bradford Council’s meeting with Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, during which the future of Queensbury Tunnel was raised, Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is a valuable asset with the potential to deliver social and economic benefits for generations to come. We have always believed that any decision on its future must be made on the basis of robust evidence. Highways England should have provided that evidence but, unfortunately, it has failed to do so.
“What we need therefore is time to gather it for ourselves. This goes beyond the Council’s recent investigations into the tunnel’s condition to include allied issues such as landowner agreements, future flood management options and connecting routes.
“We would welcome the Secretary of State’s intervention to ensure stakeholders are given the opportunity to reach a fully informed decision without the threat of being overtaken by Highways England’s questionable and premature abandonment scheme.”
Bradford South MP Judith Cummins said: “I have been a long standing supporter of the fantastic work done by the Queensbury Tunnel Society and I will continue to campaign alongside them. A refurbished tunnel and cycleway has the potential to be a huge asset to the district.
“I wrote to the Transport Secretary in May asking him to intervene on this issue and I look forward to receiving a positive response.”
The tunnel, which is 2,501 yards (2,287 metres) long, opened to freight traffic in October 1878 and passenger trains in December 1879. The line between Holmfield and Queensbury, which included the tunnel, was officially closed on May 28, 1956. Track lifting took place in 1963.