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Derelict railway tunnel between Halifax and Bradford is over a mile-and-a-half long

An abandoned railway tunnel in West Yorkshire could soon be the longest underground cycleway in Europe if local groups and sustainable transport charity Sustrans are successful in their campaign.

If the Queensbury Tunnel project gets the green light it will replace the Combe Down Tunnel in Bath, a project which Sustrans also had a hand in, as the longest tunneled cycleway in Europe.

The plans would see the Halifax to Bradford tunnel, which has been blocked since the 1960s, become part of the Great Northern Trail network of traffic-free walking and cycling paths that have been built over the tracks of the old Great Northern Railway line.

The Highways Agency has control over the tunnel and have stated that they will carry out maintenance in the coming years.  But Sustrans and local campaigning groups want action as soon as possible, as fears grow that if work is not started on the urgent repairs that are needed soon, the Highways Agency may block the tunnel up for good.

Queensbury Community Heritage and Action Partnership (QCHAP) is pressing the matter with Bradford and Calderdale Councils to collaborate with the Highways Agency to make the project a reality before time runs out.

Norah McWilliam from QCHAP told the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford: “The big thing is we have people take this on. It could be quite urgent, because the tunnel does need repairing soon.

"If we leave things too long there is a danger the Highways Agency could just block this up. We’re just waiting to get some indication if the councils would support us now.

"We need people with clout to help push this forward. There is a lot of interest in this locally so I hope we can make this happen.”

The campaign groups will take inspiration from the success of the seven-year, £4 million, Two Tunnels project in Bath that was completed in April 2013.

The renovation of the Devonshire Tunnel and the Combe Down Tunnel created a four-mile, shared-use route that connects Bath with the Midford Valley along the trackbed of the former Somerset and Dorset Railway.

At the time of the Two Tunnels opening, chief executive of Sustrans, Malcolm Shepherd, hailed the transformation of the tunnels.

He said: “The Two Tunnels Greenway is a great example of how disused railway lines can be revived as vital transport links.

“Sustrans is delighted to have created Britain’s longest cycling tunnel – it will connect local communities and help people be more active as they get around.

“Across the country we need safer routes for walking and cycling and a fresh approach to public transport to make us less reliant on increasingly expensive car use.”

Bath’s successful connection of communities is something that group co-ordinator for the Great Northern Trail, Richard Kunz, wants to emulate in Yorkshire.

He said: “It is an exciting project. If it goes ahead it could provide an amazing link between Halifax, Bradford, Keighley and Queensbury.

"If a deal can be done to preserve the tunnel it will be unbelievable. It will be amazing to be able to cycle the full trail. If the public get behind this then it would really help things get done.

"Once it was open people would come from around the country to ride it. Since the one in Bath opened it has had loads of visitors. I hope the project will go ahead in the next year or so.”

Since its opening the Combe Down Tunnel in Bath has held the title of longest underground cycleway in Europe, which was previously held the 850m long San Sebastian Cycle Tunnel in Spain.

However, the longest cycle tunnel in the world is the Snoqualmie Tunnel in Washington State, America. The unlit tunnel is 2.3 miles long and opened in June 2011.

Elliot joined team road.cc bright eyed, bushy tailed, and straight out of university.

Raised in front of cathode ray tube screens bearing the images of Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong, Elliot's always had cycling in his veins.
His balance was found on a Y-framed mountain bike around South London suburbs in the 90s, while his first taste of freedom came when he claimed his father's Giant hybrid as his own at age 16.

When Elliot's not writing for road.cc two wheels are still his favoured mode of transport; these days over the undulating streets of Madrid.

36 comments

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nowasps [418 posts] 2 years ago
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The Highways Agency. They sound like good guys, right?

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SideBurn [890 posts] 2 years ago
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I love the way Sustrans talk about these old lines being used as an alternative to the car. However after using a cycle-path to commute for a while, I am fed up with it and the hassle of, in particular dog walkers. As a place to walk a dog these trails are great, but even my local paper is full of stories of annoying cyclists intimidating pedestrians on the trail and annoying cyclists not using the cycle-paths. All credit to Sustrans, keep up the good work, it is a disgrace that old railway lines are lying abandoned.
But what are they? As far as I am concerned, either ban dogs or cyclists from them. Riding through a dark tunnel knowing there may be a dog running around in front of you is not what I call fun. And do not get me started about dog poo!

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numbercruncher [28 posts] 2 years ago
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Could be interesting if it actually goes ahead. Virtually on my doorstep, so I would certainly make use of it.

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seven [150 posts] 2 years ago
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"SideBurn" wrote:

I love the way Sustrans talk about these old lines being used as an alternative to the car. However after using a cycle-path to commute for a while, I am fed up with it...

I gave up on cycle paths because the ones round here are constantly littered with mud, storm debris, glass etc. That's when they're not half flooded. The dog walkers etc. are a minor nuisance compared to having to deal with a bottom bracket and drive train that's always covered in crud and constantly needing attention. The local council and Sustrans both seem to think it's perfectly acceptable. It's almost as if they think that, by choosing to cycle, we are somehow willing to give up modern road surfaces and return to some sort of agrarian transport system with communities linked by muddy farm tracks.

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jarredscycling [456 posts] 2 years ago
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Great to see the use of rundown infrastructure converted to bicycle

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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Looks safe to me...

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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seven wrote:
"SideBurn" wrote:

I love the way Sustrans talk about these old lines being used as an alternative to the car. However after using a cycle-path to commute for a while, I am fed up with it...

I gave up on cycle paths because the ones round here are constantly littered with mud, storm debris, glass etc. That's when they're not half flooded. The dog walkers etc. are a minor nuisance compared to having to deal with a bottom bracket and drive train that's always covered in crud and constantly needing attention. The local council and Sustrans both seem to think it's perfectly acceptable. It's almost as if they think that, by choosing to cycle, we are somehow willing to give up modern road surfaces and return to some sort of agrarian transport system with communities linked by muddy farm tracks.

+many times over, the "NCN" around Surrey is a complete joke.

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cidermart [489 posts] 2 years ago
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That's nice that they want us underground in a tunnel smelling of piss. I think someone has just made my Christmas card list  4

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CarlosFerreiro [106 posts] 2 years ago
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seven wrote:

It's almost as if they think that, by choosing to cycle, we are somehow willing to give up modern road surfaces and return to some sort of agrarian transport system with communities linked by muddy farm tracks.

It's especially interesting as Sustrans own website has a whole life cost comparison showing bitmac paths coming out substantially cheaper than the equivalent in unbound grit, once all the maintenance is included....

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arfa [741 posts] 2 years ago
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I used the north downs way last weekend for the first time. It too is a disused railway line. It was a mud bath, narrow at points and negotiating dogs and horses needed extreme care. In no way was any of the route passable on anything other than a mountain bike. Basically it is in no shape or form anything other than a disjointed path which is no use for covering any distance on. I am seriously beginning to doubt the value of the work sustrans do which is a shame.

I won't even start on the UK end of the "avenue verte"

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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arfa wrote:

I used the north downs way last weekend for the first time. It too is a disused railway line. It was a mud bath, narrow at points and negotiating dogs and horses needed extreme care. In no way was any of the route passable on anything other than a mountain bike. Basically it is in no shape or form anything other than a disjointed path which is no use for covering any distance on. I am seriously beginning to doubt the value of the work sustrans do which is a shame.

I won't even start on the UK end of the "avenue verte"

The North Downs Way isn't a sustrans cycling route. It is a long distance (walking) trail that happens to include some bridleway though surely?

Last I heard they were doing a feasibility study into creating a cycling route in the same corridor as the NDW but weren't planning to do much with the NDW itself.

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arfa [741 posts] 2 years ago
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I stand corrected on the ndw !

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badback [302 posts] 2 years ago
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I use the Monsal trail In the Peak District now and again and it has several tunnels.

it's well used by families as it allows kids to ride in a traffic free environment and is very busy at the weekends with cyclists of all ages, most going at a sensible speed and not segment hunting.

it always amazes me the number of groups of ramblers that insist on walking the full width of the track in the tunnels and have no concept of sharing it with other users. I've no grouse about them being there - I also walk and run down it occasionally. It's just their bloody mindedness that gets me.

And don't get me started about the pillocks that don't have their dogs on a lead.......

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ironmancole [322 posts] 2 years ago
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All these crappo 'bike routes' end up being are dog walking routes where they moan about cyclists 'terrorising' them before clambering back into 3 tonnes of range rover 'sport' and genuinely terrorise, kill and maim cyclists and pedestrians completely unchecked.

I just wish they'd stop paying lip service to cycling and actually use .5% of the annual road building budget, paid for by ALL OF US after all who pay income tax, and create a genuine cycling road just for cycling on that is actually useful.

Cars get the motorway exclusively, what do cyclists get exclusively? Squat. We just get gravel tracks littered with dogs and 'terrorised' walkers squeezed along useless sections of canals and grotty retail park loading areas that you can't train on. Use the road and you get massacred, use the path to escape the massacre for the briefest of moments and you get fined.

Why don't we campaign for a dedicated cycle roadway running alongside the HS2, which government will push through at some point, and at last be able to ride for miles in peace without having to worry about the constant threat of what's zooming up behind you.

It would add pennies on the grand scale of a project like that and some of it could be met by grants and lotto funding in each region it passes through. Little shops would open to cater for users and as a facility it would be amazing.

If just 10 miles of motorway budget were instead allocated to building a dedicated cycling roadway just how many miles would that be able to build?

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minnellium [86 posts] 2 years ago
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Dick Kunz??

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antigee [332 posts] 2 years ago
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It's especially interesting as Sustrans own website has a whole life cost comparison showing bitmac paths coming out substantially cheaper than the equivalent in unbound grit, once all the maintenance is included....

not in the UK but same problems with shared used paths and locally a budget approved scheme linking a school, shops and a sports centre have been abandoned following those in favour of "quiet parks" - that is dog walkers that drive to the park - complaining non stop about fast commuting cyclists in adjacent parks - one proposed solution is to not seal the trails - leave them as gravel - this slows down cyclists - doesn't rain so much here in Aus' so less impact on drivetrain but creating a surface only suitable for leisure use is not sustainable transport

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Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 2 years ago
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Sustrans are heavily reliant on local authority partners to deliver their schemes. When you get a cycle path that's been rendered more or less unusable by things like those stupid squeeze gates, you can bet it's the local authority's doing, not the people who actually ride bikes.

Yes, the surface of a lot of the NCN is poor. That's because it's a work in progress, with sections getting improved as scarce funding becomes available. The attitude of some people towards what is arguably the UK's most effective pro-cycling charity beggars belief. It's a bit like loudly slagging off cancer charities because, after all that funding and campaigning, none of them have actually found a cure for cancer.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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Well the NCN around the surrey hills is a complete mud bath / pot holed mess of dodgy signs, not even sure why it exists, what's wrong with the countless country lanes, oh yeah the mr and mrs toad want them for themselves too.

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arfa [741 posts] 2 years ago
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To be clear, I have supported Sustrans in the past, but it's not clear (to me at least) what their near term goal is. Dirt track is fine if you are on a mountain bike but hopeless for everything else. I personally don't regard getting about on a heavy duty mountain bike as "sustainable transport" because it's too heavy

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Mr Agreeable wrote:

Yes, the surface of a lot of the NCN is poor. That's because it's a work in progress, with sections getting improved as scarce funding becomes available. The attitude of some people towards what is arguably the UK's most effective pro-cycling charity beggars belief.

If we use the flagship bristol and bath path as an example, nice surface the route makes perfect sense as a commuter route, But there is an issue with speed of cyclists.

Think about it, you have a route that is perfect for cycling and is it any surprise that cyclists, who are trying to get to and from work are not going to be bimbling along at walking pace.

The tunnel in this article, the first question i would ask, before anything else. What are they trying to achieve by opening this tunnel.

The problem with much of the NCN is that simply it doesn't go where people want to go by a remotely direct route, as a leisure route it is not really an issue but for transport, for commuting.

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workhard [397 posts] 2 years ago
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northstar wrote:

Well the NCN around the surrey hills is a complete mud bath / pot holed mess of dodgy signs, not even sure why it exists, what's wrong with the countless country lanes, oh yeah the mr and mrs toad want them for themselves too.

The vast majority of the NCN in the Surrey Hills is on tarmac, on those countless country lanes, ime.

downslink is a notable exception to this being an old railway line aimed at leisure use only.

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wildnorthlands [32 posts] 2 years ago
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When the NCN was put in around Sheffield it was mostly dirt track. Now, 14 years later most of it is tarmac. It is possible to get paths upgraded if you work with Sustrans and LA's rather than just carping at them.

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SideBurn [890 posts] 2 years ago
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"The attitude of some people towards what is arguably the UK's most effective pro-cycling charity beggars belief. It's a bit like loudly slagging off cancer charities because, after all that funding and campaigning, none of them have actually found a cure for cancer"
You are half way there here; how would you feel if you gave money to a 'cancer' charity and then found they had given huge sums to help cure 'asthma?' Great well done Sustrans, but why on their signage do they say "Cyclists make way to pedestrians" but not "Keep your dog under control" and "Clear up your dogs poo"? This makes me think that they are building footpaths that cyclists are just about tolerated on. What I am saying is call them what they actually are namely "Dog poo alleys"

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Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 2 years ago
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Regardless of where you think you should come in some notional hierarchy, they're getting cycle routes built, which is more than can be said for any other UK cycling organisation at this point in time.

The compromises that come with this are unfortunate and Sustrans know this as well as anyone, but until more of the UK wakes up to the benefits of cycle-only infrastructure, shared use routes are all we're going to get.

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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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Mr Agreeable wrote:

but until more of the UK wakes up to the benefits of cycle-only infrastructure, shared use routes are all we're going to get.

Catch 22, if we don't use these routes, cyclists are being obstructive. If we do then they obviously fit the need.

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Mr Agreeable [172 posts] 2 years ago
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Mrmo, go on many Sustrans routes and you'll see people who simply wouldn't be cycling if they didn't exist. Young children and their parents being a particularly obvious example. If you told these people that they were endorsing intolerant drivers, or surrendering their right to use the road, they wouldn't have a clue what you were on about.

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SideBurn [890 posts] 2 years ago
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Mr Agreeable wrote:

Regardless of where you think you should come in some notional hierarchy, they're getting cycle routes built, which is more than can be said for any other UK cycling organisation at this point in time.

The compromises that come with this are unfortunate and Sustrans know this as well as anyone, but until more of the UK wakes up to the benefits of cycle-only infrastructure, shared use routes are all we're going to get.

But they are not cycle-routes; they are dog toilets. I would not recommend anyone to use them to ride a bike on regardless of their experience. I think you are more likely to have an accident on one, admittedly not run over by a car. I would rather see a cycling charity spending money making the roads better and safer. The Cycle Touring Club for example? The Campaign Against Drinking and Driving?

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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How long have the ctc been around? and "we" are still waiting for dutch style bike paths?

How many more times do "we" need to bang our heads against various brick walls that won't listen, that includes all "authorities".

The issue is not going to go away no matter how much they'd like it too ; )

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andyp [1448 posts] 2 years ago
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'An abandoned railway tunnel in West Yorkshire could soon be the longest *legal* underground cycleway in Europe'

Hashtag I am just saying this.

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RedfishUK [127 posts] 2 years ago
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I gave up on cycle paths because the ones round here are constantly littered with mud, storm debris, glass etc.......The local council and Sustrans both seem to think it's perfectly acceptable.

If the route is managed by Sustrans then you could volunteer to be a Ranger in your area and help maintain the cycle paths

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