Highway England ease fears over Queensbury tunnel 'being left to collapse'

Queensbury Tunnel (Picture FourByThree)
Queensbury Tunnel (Picture FourByThree)

Highways England has said safety work on a disused railway will be done as soon as possible after concerns were raised it was being left to collapse.

READ MORE: Concerns grow over disused railway tunnel being ‘left to collapse’
The 1.4-mile long Queensbury Tunnel is the focus of an ongoing campaign to reopen it as part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax.

However Highways England’s Historical Railway Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, intends to permanently close it at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £3.6 million.

READ MORE: READ MORE: Safety work to start on Queensbury Tunnel
According to the Queensbury Tunnel Society a recent report into coal mining risks by Jacobs, HRE’s consulting engineers, shows that only short sections of the tunnel would be infilled as part of the proposed abandonment scheme, amounting to about 15% of its total length.

They say the remainder - mostly passing beneath the populated part of Queensbury - would be left to collapse, including a 300-metre long section where the lining is already failing.

However a spokesperson for Highways England said: “The safety of the community is paramount and the Department for Transport, the owners of the tunnel, agree that safety work to reduce the risk to the community around Queensbury Tunnel should be undertaken as soon as possible.

"Phase 1 of the proposed work has started and involves partial strengthening of the most vulnerable areas of the tunnel which will also provide a safe working area throughout the tunnel for any future work undertaken.

“We are working closely with Bradford Council on the preparation of the planning application for Phase 2 of our safety work.

"Further liaison with the Coal Authority will provide greater understanding in respect of any impact of the proposed work in Phase 2 with potential unrecorded mine workings.

"This will ensure that our plans are subject to the necessary scrutiny by both the Council’s planning and technical teams and statutory consultees. It is not expected that a final decision on the application will now be reached until spring 2019.

“We understand that Bradford Council is still considering a potential transfer of the tunnel so that it could be re-opened and used as a local sustainable transport corridor. Any such transfer could be quickly achieved.”