Campaigners hoping to turn a disused West Yorkshire railway tunnel into a sustainable transport corridor have called for supporters to join them in fighting a planning application to abandon the 1.4-mile long Victorian structure.
The Queensbury Tunnel Society says that the 2,501-yard tunnel, which closed to rail traffic in 1956, could house part of a cycle route running from Bradford to Halifax.
A Sustrans study estimated such a project could bring £37.6m in social, economic and tourism benefits over a 30-year period.
Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which manages the Queensbury Tunnel on behalf of the Department for Transport, wants to permanently close it due to perceived safety concerns. Abandonment would cost upwards of £3.6m.
More than 10,800 people have signed an ePetition backing the alternative cycle network proposal and Bradford and Calderdale councils also backed the scheme in February.
Despite this, plans for the tunnel’s closure have now been submitted for Bradford Council’s approval.
Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is a remarkable public asset which establishes a strategic connection between Calderdale and Bradford District, overcoming the ridge that separates them. If there is ever to be a cycle link between the two areas, it will have to go through the tunnel. So what’s needed here is long-term vision.
“We will have failed future generations if the opportunities presented by the tunnel are allowed to slip through our fingers. It could help us to meet our emerging health and environmental obligations, improve connectivity for commuters, draw visitors to explore our built heritage and natural landscapes, and serve as a leisure facility for communities along its route.
“It also offers high value for money, with £2.31 returned for every £1 invested. In contrast, abandonment is likely to cost around £5m and offer absolutely no benefit.”
HRE’s plans involve filling less than 15 per cent of the tunnel around the two entrances and six shafts. The remainder would be left to flood and collapse over time.
Around 440 residential properties lie above, within the tunnel’s ‘zone of influence’.
Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “The people of Queensbury should ask themselves whether they would prefer to live above a tunnel that’s been sealed up and left to collapse and flood, or one that’s subject to an ongoing regime of inspection and maintenance; perhaps even fully repaired so it’s safe enough to cycle through.
“If they don’t like the sound of the first option, they need to make their voices heard by objecting to HRE’s planning application.”
Comments and objections can be lodged via the planning portal on Bradford Council’s website.