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DfT could close former rail tunnel permanently this summer but campaigners say for same money a cycle route could be built

Campaigners who are fighting to create what would be Europe’s longest cycling tunnel on a disused railway line in West Yorkshire are stepping up their efforts as we head into the New Year to prevent it being permanently closed this summer by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The Queensbury Tunnel Society says that the tunnel could be converted to a bike route for 2.8 million, slightly less than the £3 million the DfT plans to spend on filling in parts of the tunnel with concrete to make it impassable, the tunnel could be converted to a bike route.

The society’s figure comes from a report commissioned by it last year from a firm of specialist engineers who set out a  proposed 44-week schedule of works.

But a 2016 report conducted for Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which is custodian on behalf of the DFt of the 1.4-mile tunnel, closed in 1965, said it would cost £35 million to turn the tunnel, which has five ventilation shafts, into a cycle route.

For its part, the Queensbury Tunnel Society has highlighted a Sustrans report which says that incorporating the tunnel into a cycling network linking Bradford, Halifax and Keighley, could provide benefits of £37.6 million in economic, health and tourism terms over the next three decades.

In September, the society produced a short video highlighting the Great Northern Railway Trail, showing cyclists and walkers on the sections of that route which could be linked via the tunnel, and called on Bradford Council to support the project.

Graeme Bickerdike, co-ordinator of engineering activities for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said at that time: “Until now, the repair proposals and costings have relied on previously available technical evidence, visual inspections and informed judgement as to how defects might develop over time.

“We anticipate the upcoming work will involve a tactile examination of the tunnel’s lining and intrusive investigations to understand the loads being applied to it. This should reveal a sharper picture of the necessary repairs and associated costs, enabling the council to reach a robust, informed and confident decision.”

The Two Tunnels Greenway in Bath and Monsal Trail in the Peak District are two examples of popular cycle routes incorporating former railway tunnels, while last year the Rhondda Tunnel Society obtained a £90,975 grant to examine a tunnel it is looking to preserve in South Wales.

Last August, the Queensbury Tunnel Society released another video showing a virtual ride through the tunnel once renovated – incuding a water-powered art installation and other features.

With 2018 being a crucial year for the tunnel’s future, an article published yesterday by Guardian North of England editor Helen Pidd has garnered hundreds of comments on the newspaper’s website.

In a Facebook post, the society described the comments as “Mostly positive, some negative, some bonkers, some missing the point. That's to be expected.

“But the key here is to stimulate debate on the value of an asset which, without intervention, will soon be consumed by £3m of publicly-funded concrete. Or, for a similar investment, it could help to generate £37.6m in economic benefits over 30 years as part of an ambitious cycle network.

“Anyone need help choosing the right option?

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

12 comments

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the little onion [177 posts] 2 weeks ago
3 likes

As someone very local to the area, this is an interesting idea BUT there is no mention of the linking infrastructure. We could have a world-class tunnel for cycling, but it is not much use if the routes to and from the tunnel are rubbish. There could be a nice link to central bradford via Thornton road, with the potential for Dutch/Danish style segragated paths.

Tragically, as we have seen with the £30 million Leeds-Bradford cycle "super" highway omnishambles, there is little political will to create proper cycling infrastructure that actually serves the needs of cyclists.

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DaveE128 [968 posts] 2 weeks ago
2 likes
the little onion wrote:

As someone very local to the area, this is an interesting idea BUT there is no mention of the linking infrastructure. We could have a world-class tunnel for cycling, but it is not much use if the routes to and from the tunnel are rubbish. There could be a nice link to central bradford via Thornton road, with the potential for Dutch/Danish style segragated paths.

Tragically, as we have seen with the £30 million Leeds-Bradford cycle "super" highway omnishambles, there is little political will to create proper cycling infrastructure that actually serves the needs of cyclists.

How much of the old railway line each end would be usable? Presumably they used to go to major population centres?

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BehindTheBikesheds [1123 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

TLO, there is a proposed cycle path leading into/out IF the tunnel gets the go ahead.

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therealsmallboy [177 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

They were looking at making one of these here in Sheffield. The old tunnels near Stocksbridge going over towards Manchester. If they do both, there could be a reyt proper link-up cocker!

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peted76 [820 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

Petition signed here - tiny.cc/queensburytunnel

Not even 5000 people have signed this petition.. we should spread the word! This could be a good news story in about ten years!

 

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andyp [1541 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Europe’s longest *official* cycling tunnel. Tunnel riding is much more fun when you’re not supposed to be there. 

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BehindTheBikesheds [1123 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
andyp wrote:

Europe’s longest *official* cycling tunnel. Tunnel riding is much more fun when you’re not supposed to be there. 

I did one descending from Col de la Forclaz toward the CH/FRA border through a very dark tunnel (couple of very dim sodiums), at 46mph it was exhilarating to say the least, I'd already gone up through it an hour before so had an idea of the road surface. If this gets the go ahead I'd go there just to ride it.

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StraelGuy [1108 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

I would, too. I've just signed the petition.

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Stewspecs [1 post] 1 week ago
0 likes
DaveE128 wrote:
the little onion wrote:

As someone very local to the area, this is an interesting idea BUT there is no mention of the linking infrastructure. We could have a world-class tunnel for cycling, but it is not much use if the routes to and from the tunnel are rubbish. There could be a nice link to central bradford via Thornton road, with the potential for Dutch/Danish style segragated paths.

Tragically, as we have seen with the £30 million Leeds-Bradford cycle "super" highway omnishambles, there is little political will to create proper cycling infrastructure that actually serves the needs of cyclists.

How much of the old railway line each end would be usable? Presumably they used to go to major population centres?

The railway line to the north is already a good cycle path to Thornton, the road to queensbury is not in a good state but it’s a challenge for casual cyclists. The south end would give easy access to the road network which would then need a cycle path developed, possibly along the route of the olds railway to Halifax

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CygnusX1 [696 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

Looks like it may be closer to reality.On Sky news this morning: http://news.sky.com/story/campaigners-say-deal-close-to-turn-queensbury-...

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pockstone [141 posts] 1 week ago
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Does it need to be tarmaced? Looks like an expensive option. After all it won't need to  shed the rain, and is unlikely to be a high speed route, being dark and narrow and all. Maybe it's justified as  a minor part of the overall cost, and cheaper to maintain?

Are there plans to  extend the path and join up with the Cullingworth viaduct section of the path?

Another commenter (perhaps elsewhere) has already suggested the opening of Well Heads tunnel further north to complement and extend this scheme.

This railway line presents such a great opportunity to link Halifax with Keighley, with spurs to Bradford, Haworth and other centres. I do fear that those parts of it now in private ownership, and other disused and dismantled infrastructure may make a comprehensive scheme unworkable. 

I sincerely hope not, and all success to the Queensbury tunnel proposals.

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pockstone [141 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

...and if you REALLY feel the need to visit Queensbury, how about one of these?:

https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rj...