ONE wonders what the navvies who built the railway tunnel between Leeds and Harrogate, many of whom sacrificed their lives in the process, would make of the lamentable state of the line today. The Pacer trains which continue to traverse it are hardly more sophisticated than the technology of their time.
The commemoration taking place on the tunnel’s 170th anniversary is a timely reminder of the scale of Victorian ambition and the ability of our forebears to turn it into reality.
The passage they dug through the ridge that lies between Airedale and Wharfedale was one of the longest in Britain, and saw camps of navvies spring up around what is now the fashionable Leeds suburb of Bramhope.
The only monument to those workers, and especially the 50 or so who died, is to be found beside the parish church in Otley, which will be rededicated on the anniversary. But their true legacy would be a better service on the line for which they laboured.