Disappointment over 'inadequate' offer from Government to re-open Queensbury Tunnel in Yorkshire

Ambitious plans to re-open a former rail tunnel as a cycleway have been dealt a major blow.

Inside the Queensbury Tunnel

For several years, campaigners have called for the Queensbury Tunnel to be re-opened as a cycle and pedestrian route.

They say the scheme would encourage cycling between Bradford and Halifax and act as a local tourist attraction.

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However, Highways England, which manages the tunnel on behalf of the Department for Transport, has pushed for the tunnel to instead be filled in for safety reasons.

A planning application to block up the tunnel has been submitted to Bradford Council, and a decision has yet to be made.

The proposals for a cycle way had recieved support from Bradford Council, and in March this year Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he also supported plans to re-open the tunnel.

However, Bradford Council announced that Mr Shapps had written to the council on Tuesday (June 16) with an offer of £4m to re-open the tunnel, saying it was their “best and final offer”, and that a decision from them would be needed by Friday (June 19) .

The authority estimates that the cost of re-opening the tunnel, linking it in with neighbouring infrastructure and maintaining the facility for years to come will cost at least £27m.

Bradford Council Leader Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe has written back to the Secretary of State to ask him to reconsider.

Coun Hinchcliffe said: “Campaigners and residents have come out in their thousands to support re-opening the Queensbury Tunnel as a much needed commuter link between Bradford and Halifax. I am so disappointed that the offer made is so inadequate.

“Bradford Council has been working with those campaigners for years now to demonstrate to Government what a great opportunity the tunnel is for their investment. Especially in these times when Government is encouraging more cycling and walking.

“For Government to send us a letter on Tuesday with an offer of £4m with a “take it or leave it” deadline of Friday this week after we’ve all spent many months of campaigning and doing surveys just doesn’t sound like they are taking Queensbury Tunnel seriously.

“This is a derisory offer for such a significant piece of infrastructure. We have been quite clear that the full cost of restoring the tunnel and opening it up as a cycleway will cost £27.2million.

“£4 million is nowhere near enough to save the tunnel, given that it would cost £2.1million alone to undo the damage done by Highways England after they poured concrete into one of the airshafts.

“This would leave just £1.9 million to carry out all additional works and renovations to open it up to be enjoyed again. Local MPs and Councillors across parties have been supporting this campaign which has really captured the public’s imagination.

“We have asked that the Secretary of State gives his offer further consideration.”

Norah McWilliam, of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “This offer completely flies in the face of Grant Shapps’ statement earlier this year that he wanted to work with local leaders to find a positive outcome for Queensbury Tunnel.

“The three-day deadline for the Council’s response smacks of highhandedness and a complete disregard for the painstaking work that has gone into designing a greenway connecting Bradford to Halifax via the tunnel and ignores well-founded data of economic, health and social benefits to our region in building it.

“One thing we have learned from the Covid crisis is that healthy exercise and clean air are essential for community well-being. The underlying public appetite to embrace active travel has been amply demonstrated. Bradford deserves a decent share of the £2 billion fund announced by Grant Shapps to put walking and cycling at the heart of the nation’s transport policy.

“We cannot allow an indifferent government department to act in this irrational and dismissive manner.”

Last year the Tunnel made the Victorian Society’s list of Victorian structures most at risk of being lost.


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