Minister’s visit gives push to tunnel campaign

Campaigners who want to preserve a West Yorkshire railway tunnel hope their efforts will be boosted by a visit from a government minister.

Under-Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill MP is due to visit Queensbury, between Bradford and Halifax, today.

Queensbury Community Heritage and Action Partnership (Q-Chap) are campaigning to secure the disused Queensbury railway tunnel and Station Road as extensions of the Great Northern Railway Trail, opening it up to walkers and cyclists.

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Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, said: “I want to see it first hand and then we can start to think about what it’s likely to cost. There is substantial work to do so we need to consider whether this is viable. The Prime Minister has made it absolutely clear that increasing levels of cycling is a priority for the Government and cycling not only reduces pollution and congestion on our roads but also is a major way of tackling health issues such as obesity.”

Mr Goodwill will be joined by Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, and representatives of Bradford and Calderdale councils.

Mr Verity said: “This promises to be an interesting event based around what is an ambitious and intriguing project. Should plans progress, it has the potential to from part of the national cycling network, and further shows the passion we have here for cycling in Yorkshire.”

Q-Chap says that the mile and a half long structure would link the Great Northern Railway Trail to Holmfield and Halifax.

Norah McWilliam, of Q-CHAP, said: “2018 will be the 140th anniversary of the tunnel’s opening. Given the go-ahead, we think Bradford and Halifax could become proud joint hosts to a fantastic sporting event – the Queensbury Tunnel Triathlon. This is a once-only opportunity to ensure a fantastic piece of our industrial past plays a key role in our transport future. We need to grab that opportunity with both hands.”

More than 1,100 people have signed a petition asking the Highways Agency, which is responsible for the tunnel, not to block it when they carry out repairs.

A Highways Agency spokesperson said: “Parts of the tunnel have been inaccessible for a number of years due to flooding. We have allocated funds to drain the large amounts of water and undertake a survey to determine the condition of the tunnel and the level of maintenance work required. We will share the results of this work with our stakeholders in the autumn. We are aware that before the Highways Agency took over responsibility for the tunnel, the British Rail Board Residuary Ltd and Sustrans had discussions about Sustrans’ aspirations for the tunnel.

“The Highways Agency’s Historical Railways Estate team have actively maintained that positive relationship with Minis since the transfer, and will continue to do so. However, no specific Highways Agency funds have been set aside to accommodate a cycle path.”