The Victorian Society have expressed concern about the future of a 19th-century railway tunnel after plans to mothball it were announced.
Queensbury Tunnel has been included on the preservation charity's annual list of the most at-risk Victorian and Edwardian structures in Britain.
The organisation aims to raise awareness of the plight of neglected or under-threat buildings in the hope of saving them from demolition or decay.
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The tunnel, which links Holmfield to Queensbury, was once part of the Great Northern Railway's route from Halifax to Keighley, and was completed in 1878. It never attracted large passenger numbers, and became primarily a goods line. It closed to all traffic in 1956 as part of a post-war cost-cutting drive, and the track was lifted in 1963.
Although the Department for Transport, who now own the structure, want to formally abandon it and fill it with concrete, a local campaign group has pushed for it to be converted into a cycleway.
The tunnel has suffered severe flooding since the 1980s, and there have been several incidents of shaft collapses. The structure is not regularly maintained and its condition has deteriorated significantly since closure.
Abandonment plans were first investigated in 2009, when an engineering consultancy suggested that infill works to ensure its future stability would cost in excess of £5million.
Heritage campaigners proposed in 2014 that the tunnel should become part of the Great Northern Railway Trail for cyclists, as part of their regeneration plans for the area. A government minister visited the site and asked for research into repair costs to be undertaken, but was quoted a figure of £35million, which was deemed too expensive.
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The Queensbury Tunnel Society then consulted an engineer on a private basis and presented an alternative repair scheme estimated at just £2.8million.
A second feasibility study was submitted to Highways England's Historical Railways Estate, who manage the site, in 2016. It was decided to proceed with entrance infilling and shaft backfilling work.
The Queensbury Tunnel Society hit back, claiming that the condition of the structure was satisfactory and that assessment of its suitability as a cycle route should be undertaken.
In August 2018, a contract for the abandonment project was awarded to AMCO-Giffen, and initial site works began the following October.
Bradford Council have supported the re-opening plans, but their endorsement is dependent on funding being sourced for the project. They agreed to lobby the government to delay the tunnel's abandonment so that costs could be met. A feasibility study has been commissioned on the basis that the path would become CityConnect 3 - a route linking Bradford to Halifax that would extend the CityConnect 1 (Leeds to Bradford) and CityConnect2 (Shipley to Bradford) cycleways into Calderdale.
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A full planning application for the abandonment of Queensbury Tunnel was submitted in May 2019.
The Victorian Society's director Christopher Costelloe said:-
"We hope it will be used to give new life to the communities it connects rather than being lost forever. Queensbury Tunnel could be at the heart of a new transport revolution, bringing cyclists and tourists to this part of Yorkshire. If it is filled in this irreplaceable asset will be lost for ever. Bath’s Two Tunnels cycleway has been a triumphant success and there is no reason why Yorkshire - now the beating heart of British cycling - couldn’t do the same."