Safety work by Highways England will start later this month on the Queensbury Tunnel.
The tunnel has received the highest risk ranking of each of the 3,200 former railway structures managed by Highways England since September 2013. The necessary safety works have now been designed and a contractor has been appointed.
A spokesperson for Highways England said: “Safety work on Queensbury Tunnel is due to start later this month and will be carried out in two phases. The safety of the community is paramount and the Department for Transport, the owners of the tunnel, agree that we should now carry out safety work to reduce the risk to the community around the tunnel.
“Phase 1 of the safety work is temporary and will provide some partial and short term strengthening at the most vulnerable locations in the tunnel. This temporary safety work under each of the seven ventilation shafts, within the Holmfield entrance and at other locations where the tunnel lining is vulnerable will provide essential protection to the contractors as they go through the tunnel during phase two of the safety work.
“The planning application process to carry out phase two of the safety work, which includes infilling of the seven ventilation shafts and sections of the tunnel at each portal, started in May of this year.”
It is expected that phase one will take between six and eight weeks to complete.
The Department for Transport remains willing to transfer ownership of the tunnel to another statutory body. Phase one of the safety work is not prejudicial to any current considerations about a change of ownership.
Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, who would like the 1.4 mile tunnel to form the centrepiece of a cycle path network connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley. said: “The appointment of a contractor and the undertaking of preparatory works was expected and doesn’t really change anything, apart from underlining how close we are to losing the opportunities and future benefits offered by Queensbury Tunnel. That should focus the minds of stakeholders. However Highways England has not yet submitted final proposals to Bradford Council for planning permission so the main abandonment works are some way off yet.
“Engineers acting for Bradford Council have recently carried out a programme of investigations in the tunnel to get a clearer and deeper understanding of its condition. Their report will inform decision-making about the viability and cost of repairing it to host a cycle path. That’s the defining moment as far as the campaign is concerned.”