Sky News reports that campaigners have persuaded the Department for Transport (DfT) to hand over the £3m cost of concreting shut the 1.5-mile Queensbury Tunnel if Bradford City Council can be persuaded to take it off their hands. The campaigners would like to see the tunnel reopen as a cycle route.
Earlier in the week, we reported how the Queensbury Tunnel Society believes the West Yorkshire tunnel could be converted into a bike route for £2.8m – slightly less than the £3m the DfT planned to spend on filling in parts of it with concrete so as to make it impassable.
A member of the campaign group, Graeme Bickerdike, said: "Is it sensible to take £3m of taxpayers money, convert it into concrete, and pour it into a black hole? Or do you use that money and invest it into transforming this structure into an asset that can be used to generate money?"
Sustrans has calculated that using the tunnel for recreation would boost the local economy by almost £40m over the next 30 years.
A spokesman for Bradford Council commented: "We appreciate the passion and commitment of the groups who want to see the tunnel re-opened as a cycleway and we hope to be in a better position to understand what would be involved financially in re-opening the tunnel later this year."
A 2016 report conducted for Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE) initially put the cost of converting the tunnel into a cycle route at £35m.
Bickerdike, who co-ordinated a separate engineering study on behalf of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, and who is a writer, editor and producer specialising in railway structures, commented in 2016: “To the untrained eye, the collapses and the areas around them do look quite dramatic but, to people with a mining background, there are established ways of dealing with them that don’t involve huge costs.
“I spoke to a number of tunnelling and mining engineers about HRE’s £35 million figure – which was the product of a desk study – and they all regarded it as being off the scale. There has to be a proportionate and pragmatic approach to developing a repair solution here.”
A petition to suspend abandonment work has now attracted almost 6,000 signatures.