Campaigners hoping to reopen Queensbury Tunnel as a sustainable transport corridor have asked supporters to join them in fighting a planning application to abandon it.
Queensbury Tunnel, which closed in 1956, could form part of a new route for walkers and cyclists connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel on the Department for Transport’s behalf, wants to permanently close it due to perceived safety concerns. Plans for the scheme have now been submitted for Bradford Council’s approval.
For the past five years, the Queensbury Tunnel Society has been working with transport, heritage and environmental groups, MPs and local Councillors to promote the idea of an ambitious cycle network to the west of Bradford. More than 10,800 people have signed an ePetition backing the proposal whilst Bradford and Calderdale councils announced their support for the scheme in February. According to a Sustrans study, it could bring £37.6 million in social, economic and tourism benefits over 30 years.
Norah McWilliam, leader of the Society, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is a remarkable public asset which establishes a strategic connection between Calderdale and Bradford District, overcoming the ridge that separates them. If there is ever to be a cycle link between the two areas, it will have to go through the tunnel. So what’s needed here is long-term vision.
“We will have failed future generations if the opportunities presented by the tunnel are allowed to slip through our fingers. It could help us to meet our emerging health and environmental obligations, improve connectivity for commuters, draw visitors to explore our built heritage and natural landscapes, and serve as a leisure facility for communities along its route. It also offers high value for money, with £2.31 returned for every £1 invested. In contrast, abandonment is likely to cost around £5 million and offer absolutely no benefit.”
A spokesperson for Highways England said: “We have now submitted our planning application to Bradford Council for further safety work to close Queensbury Tunnel.
“Phase one of the work is almost complete and involves partial short-term strengthening of the most vulnerable areas within the tunnel and will provide a safe working area, including two areas of previous collapse, for any future work undertaken.
“The safety of the community and our contractors is paramount and the Department for Transport, the owners of the tunnel, agree that this work to close the tunnel should be undertaken as soon as possible.”