Abandoning Queensbury Tunnel would be a “disaster” according to a group which has been working for 18 years to create a sustainable transport link between Bradford, Halifax and Keighley using the former Great Northern rail line.
The 2,501 yards long tunnel, which closed to rail traffic in 1956, is vital to establishing a cycle and walking network across West Yorkshire, according to the chair of the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group (GNRTDG), Jeff McQuillan.
Highways England, which took on ownership of the tunnel – one of the longest in Britain - from the former British Railways residuary estates department, is planning to fill it in and seal it up – a move which Mr. McQuillan says would be a disaster for the future development of the popular Great Northern Railway Trail.
Two sections of the Trail, totalling three miles, already link Cullingworth with Harecroft and Thornton with Queensbury and are used by thousands of local people for cycling, walking and horse riding every year.
“As well as providing a valuable community resource, the completion of the Trail would attract thousands more tourists keen to experience the Bronte heritage at Haworth and Thornton,” said Mr. McQuillan.
“Even though the Trail is incomplete, there is already evidence that this is happening, and people now want to see the Trail extended into Bradford, Keighley and Halifax which would provide an asset of regional significance.
“Queensbury Tunnel is a magnificent Victorian feat of engineering and would itself become a major tourist attraction as the longest tunnel cycle route in the country.
“Although it may be viewed by Highways England as a liability, the fact is that it could be transformed into a valued asset once again.”
Mr McQuillan added that the tunnel would be a “vital connector” in a West Yorkshire network of cycle routes.
“Such a network offers greater potential than merely focusing on the Bradford District. That is why it is crucial for both Bradford Council and Calderdale Council to get behind this campaign to ensure a lasting legacy for new generations to come.
“If the authorities allow it to be filled in, it will be lost forever and the chance to extend the Great Northern Railway Trail into Calderdale will be gone.
“The GNRTDG is, therefore, fully supporting the Queensbury Tunnel Society which has been campaigning vigorously to prevent the tunnel being destroyed by Highways England.
“Safe off-road solutions such as cycling and walking offer the best sustainable way to get about and also provide the opportunity to improving peoples’ health. A restored and reopened Queensbury Tunnel would make a vital contribution to that. Its loss would be a disaster.”