West Yorkshire Association of Trades Union Councils backs campaign for cycleway through Queensbury Tunnel

Queensbury Tunnel. Photo: FourByThreeQueensbury Tunnel. Photo: FourByThree
Queensbury Tunnel. Photo: FourByThree
West Yorkshire Association of Trades Union Councils (WYATUC) has thrown its weight behind the campaign for a cycleway through Queensbury Tunnel.

In an objection to a planning application by Highways England to close and block up the tunnel, the WYATUC said: “West Yorkshire Association of Trades Union Councils (WYATUC) believes the proposals by Highways England to secure and infill the shafts and entrances of Queensbury Tunnel to be an act of environmental vandalism, negative, wasteful and destructive. Proposals to spend the money that implementing this application would require on restoring the tunnel and opening it for use as a cycleway must be supported instead.

“We understand that Bradford Council commissioned a specialist engineering team in the summer of 2018, which developed a greenway proposal for the Queensbury Tunnel. Apparently this would see the tunnel transformed from a liability into an asset and that Queensbury Tunnel could double the financial investment needed to implement such a proposal over time through social, environmental, health and economic benefits. Bradford Council declared a climate emergency in January 2019. Related to this, Bradford Council has committed itself to a green economy. On any environmental criteria, refurbishing the Queensbury Tunnel has to be more beneficial than Highways England’s proposals to fill the shafts and entrances of Queensbury Tunnel with concrete.

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“WYATUC would be astonished if the state of the Queensbury Tunnel was so dangerous that there was no alternative to Highways England’s proposals.

“We stand with organisations such as the Queensbury Tunnel Society on this issue and therefore call on Bradford Council to reject Highways England’s planning application.”

West Yorkshire Association of Trades Union Councils brings together the local Trades Union Councils in Bradford, Calderdale, Huddersfield, Keighley, Leeds and Wakefield to develop campaigns across the county on issues such as pay and conditions, health and safety, the Climate Emergency and protecting our NHS.

Graeme Bickerdike, of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “We’re delighted that WYATUC has eloquently objected to Highways England’s planning application for Queensbury Tunnel’s abandonment. If approved, this wasteful, unjustified and costly act would permanently prevent a user-friendly active travel link being established between two of West Yorkshire’s largest conurbations. That’s indefensible given the health and environmental challenges currently facing us and the Government’s commitment to invest in green infrastructure.

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“More and more people recognise that this historic structure is not just a relic of our industrial past; it also has the potential to play a useful future role as a transport asset, connecting communities for leisure, tourism and commuting purposes. A study has found that a Bradford-Halifax Greenway, via the tunnel, would return £5.60 for every £1 spent on it. Abandonment delivers zero benefit.

“We thank WYATUC for joining almost 6,700 individuals and organisations who have already made clear their opposition to the tunnel’s destruction.”

A spokesperson for Highways England said: “We are continuing our work at Queensbury Tunnel, maintaining the safety of local communities and our workforce. This work benefits any future plans to reopen the tunnel, and supports the Department for Transport and West Yorkshire Combined Authority as they look at options for the future use of the structure.”

Highways England also said the work they are doing is outside of the planning application that is with Bradford Council.

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They also said that on 14 July the Department for Transport announced a £1 million funding to develop a business case for a Queensbury Tunnel ‘greenway’ scheme.

Highways England said West Yorkshire Combined Authority will use £500,000 to develop options for how the tunnel could be part of a new green transport link between Bradford and Halifax, in a bid to boost connectivity while delivering economic and leisure benefits.

Highways England will receive the remaining £500,000 of the funding to look further at the engineering requirements and costs associated with making sure the tunnel is safe for any future construction.

They said that work is currently taking place to fill a short section of the tunnel under shaft 3. This is a high-risk area where flooding has occurred. It needs strengthening to prevent further collapse, and for the safety of residents living close to the top of shaft 3 and our workforce.

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Highways England said the necessary controlled infill under Shaft 3 will benefit any future plans to reopen the tunnel because this would prevent an uncontrolled collapse of a wider area, which would make it significantly harder to reopen the structure.

Highways England say they are not proposing to fill Shaft 3 itself, just a short section of tunnel under Shaft 3. They are planning on placing a bagging system using divers then pumping a micro-concrete into the bags. This effectively plugs the base of Shaft 3 inside the tunnel and mitigates a potential collapse whilst the business case work continues with West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

Highways England said the enabling work is ongoing, with the main work due to start mid-August, and completed in September.

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