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Campaigners ‘delighted’ after Transport Secretary says he’ll stop Queensbury Tunnel from being filled – but he seems unconvinced by plans for a cycle route

Minister floats light rail line idea as an alternative to proposed cycleway

The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, has backed a plan to reopen the disused Queensbury Tunnel in West Yorkshire. Campaigners want to see the tunnel become part of a cycle route connecting Bradford and Halifax and have been fighting Highways England who want to fill it. However, Shapps said it was ‘unclear’ what the tunnel should become and floated the idea of using it for light rail.

The Queensbury Tunnel was closed more than 60 years ago and is currently managed by Highways England on behalf of the Department for Transport.

Highways England is seeking to fill the tunnel at an estimated cost of £7m. At the same time, the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) has applied for £23m to turn the tunnel into a "high quality cycling route.”

“Queensbury Tunnel: I’ve taken a specific personal interest in it,” Shapps told the Bradford Telegraph and Argus.

“The plan and official advice was to fill it in but I have specifically prevented that from happening to work with local leaders and the Combined Authority to come up with a better solution.

“That’s an asset but at the moment it’s unclear what a tunnel from here to Halifax would do and what would run through it and is that bicycles or a light train or a tram.

“But if we’re talking about connecting communities then I think we ought to be thinking about what we do with that and that’s something I’ve just been discussing in Bradford this morning.”

Norah McWilliam, the leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said the group was ‘delighted’ at Shapps’ intervention and called on him to instruct Highways England to withdraw its planning application for abandonment.

She went on to say that while the idea of a light railway or tram was “not an altogether impossible notion,” it would demand a different level of restoration and also bring additional questions.

“The tunnel emerges at both ends onto private land and, whilst both landowners are fully supportive of accommodating a greenway, some form of rail/tram route has broader implications for them.

“Furthermore, the topography would make a rail track quite challenging. There would also be a need to maintain something close to the original profile of the tunnel throughout its length and therefore the cost of restoration would be a great deal more expensive than a greenway dedicated to walking and cycling.

“It’s also clear that any light rail or tram scheme would take many years to develop and deliver, whereas a greenway could be in place much more quickly."

She continued: “As well as being a strategic connecting route between two urban centres, our vision is for Queensbury Tunnel to be an exciting heritage destination for tourists, school parties, walkers and cyclists, boosting the local economy and offering new business opportunities, such as bike hire, camping, running and cycling races, cafés and cultural events.

“The greenway would provide a wonderful rural corridor, with much needed fresh-air exercise for families and a healthy alternative route to work, schools and colleges.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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Bob's Bikes | 3 years ago
1 like

I think the reason this person has suggested a light rail/tramway scheme is not so much that he hates cyclists but he (like many others in this country) Just cannot get his head around the fact that there are people out there that don't automatically pick up their car keys when embarking on a journey of more than a mile.

pockstone replied to Bob's Bikes | 3 years ago

I think the reason this person has suggested a light rail/tramway scheme is not so much that he hates cyclists but he knows there's no percentage in a  cycleway for the construction ,infrastructure and property companies who've donated millions to the tories.

ktache | 3 years ago
1 like

I just found this

think of miles of this.

growingvegtables | 3 years ago

Could anybody find a better example of the mendacious reality of the Tories' "levelling-up"?  Their "Northern Powerhouse"?

A "light-rail/tramway" from Halifax to Keighley?   FFS, I live in W Yorks, and I am saying, "Between where, and where?"  Add to that - the cost of three viaducts, and four other tunnels to be re-opened?

Shapps?  If that's the level of your "personal interest", shove it.  Pretty simple really.  You're ignorant, uninterested, and hate walkers and cyclists.

Richard_pics | 3 years ago

So a cycle lane that costs only to build and keep minimally maintained.

Or a "light railway" that is very likely uncommercial, will need to employ costly staff (have you seen how much train drivers earn!) and will need regular expensive maintaining.

No brainer really, but then the ones at the top only have brains that benefit thier own pockets.

ktache replied to Richard_pics | 3 years ago

Transforming the tunnel into the cycle and pedestrian lane seems like a no brainer, most of the cost will be tunnel repairs, the "road" would be relatively less.  Could be done quickly.

Then, if the light rail scheme does go ahead, which always seems unlikely, time consuming and very expensive, maybe a decade away, do that.  The tunnel is in good nick, and the roadbed will have been maintained.

But this is Grant Chapps, he seems to not understand that cycling is a viable form of transport, and the only thing going for him is that he is not Grayling.

Philh68 | 3 years ago

Light rail 

isnt this typical of the political class, infrastructure reuse that has broad benefit and relatively low ongoing cost isn’t good enough, they’ve got to propose expensive solutions so they can grandstand about what they achieved. Never mind it’ll never get past the cost-benefit analysis, because if trains were viable the tunnel would have remained in use…

pockstone | 3 years ago

Light rail from where to where? The old railway line peters out at Holmfield and I can't see much of it between there and Halifax that hasn't been built on.

On the Queensbury side opening up the old line to Keighley would require opening 3 more tunnels, at Well Heads, Doe Park(?) and Lees moor. Three viaducts (Thornton Hewenden and Cullingworth) would have to be checked and possibly upgraded from the existing cycle and pedestrian use to take a tram/light rail. Several bridges on the existing cycle track would need to be rebuilt where they've been dismantled. Housing and Industrial buildings would need to be demolished or circumvented in Cullingworth, Denholme and beyond.

The other option would be to run it from Queensbury into Bradford, down Thornton Road, connecting Bradford to Halifax - which already has a well used rail connection. Again requiring a lot of built on land to be acquired.

All of which would be massively expensive, and probably go hand in hand with development of the slim green belt to make it worthwhile

Keep it simple, open it up for bikes which can travel onward to Halifax using existing roads, and connect on the north side with existing cycle tracks. 


HarrogateSpa | 3 years ago

The few good routes we have in this country are on disused trackbeds, like the Nidderdale Greenway near me.

As much as I support rail travel, it is a threat to our Greenways. If they take them away, what have we got left?

EddyBerckx | 3 years ago

500 million for a new rail route or 23 million for a cycle a country ravaged by 10 years of austerity.

Shows you how much cycling is hated from the top that the first option is the preferred one...

eburtthebike | 3 years ago
1 like

I take it all back.  A tory finally does something slightly useful.

hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago

eburtthebike wrote:

I take it all back.  A tory finally does something slightly useful.

Well, he's making promising noises, but will he actually deliver?

Philh68 replied to hawkinspeter | 3 years ago
1 like

My stomach makes promising noises, but what eventually comes out my mouth afterward still stinks. 

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