Queensbury Tunnel campaigners blast Government over “take it or leave it” offer

Bradford Council says a sudden offer from Government to them for a project to re-open the Queensbury Tunnel as a greenway is nowhere near the £27.2m that will be needed to complete it.

The Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps wrote to Bradford Council on Tuesday, June 16 with the offer of £4m saying it was their “best and final offer” giving the council until Friday, June 19 to respond.

Bradford Council Leader Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe wrote back to the Secretary of State to ask him to reconsider.

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Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council said: “Campaigners and residents have come out in their thousands to support re-opening the Queensbury Tunnel as a much needed commuter link between Bradford and Halifax. I am so disappointed that the offer made is so inadequate.

“Bradford Council has been working with those campaigners for years now to demonstrate to Government what a great opportunity the tunnel is for their investment. Especially in these times when Government is encouraging more cycling and walking.

“For Government to send us a letter on Tuesday with an offer of £4m with a “take it or leave it” deadline of Friday this week after we’ve all spent many months of campaigning and doing surveys just doesn’t sound like they are taking Queensbury Tunnel seriously. This is a derisory offer for such a significant piece of infrastructure. We have been quite clear that the full cost of restoring the tunnel and opening it up as a cycleway will cost £27.2million.

“£4 million is nowhere near enough to save the tunnel, given that it would cost £2.1million alone to undo the damage done by Highways England after they poured concrete into one of the airshafts. This would leave just £1.9 million to carry out all additional works and renovations to open it up to be enjoyed again.

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“Local MPs and Councillors across parties have been supporting this campaign which has really captured the public’s imagination.

“We have asked that the Secretary of State gives his offer further consideration.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “This offer completely flies in the face of Grant Shapps’ statement earlier this year that he wanted to work with local leaders to find a positive outcome for Queensbury Tunnel. The three-day deadline for the Council’s response smacks of highhandedness and a complete disregard for the painstaking work that has gone into designing a greenway connecting Bradford to Halifax via the tunnel and ignores well-founded data of economic, health and social benefits to our region in building it.

“It doesn’t help that the Council Leader’s request for the Secretary of State to reconsider his offer quotes misleading figures; £27.2 million is the projected cost for the complete greenway scheme, including additional remedial works and 30 years of maintenance, NOT just the tunnel’s repair.

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“More than 6,500 people have objected to Highways England’s planning application to abandon the tunnel and more than 13,000 people have signed an online petition to preserve the tunnel for the benefit of future generations. Our campaign is backed by doctors, engineers, educationalists and environmentalists who are all concerned for the future well-being of Bradford’s children.

“There has to be a way forward that takes the tunnel out of the hands of Highways England.

“One thing we have learned from the Covid crisis is that healthy exercise and clean air are essential for community well-being. The underlying public appetite to embrace active travel has been amply demonstrated. Bradford deserves a decent share of the £2 billion fund announced by Grant Shapps to put walking and cycling at the heart of the nation’s transport policy.

“We cannot allow an indifferent government department to act in this irrational and dismissive manner.”

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