Viaduct vistas to be enjoyed soon

Spectacular views across Bradford's Clayton Valley will soon be accessible as Thornton Viaduct reopens as a traffic-free route for the first time.

Work has started at either end of the viaduct in the third phase of the Great Northern Railway Trail, which will become a walk and cycle route stretching from Cullingworth to Queensbury in west Bradford using the former Great Northern Railway line.

One new section will extend from Thornton Primary School to Headley Lane over the recently repaired viaduct.

Another will connect Thornton Primary School to a new housing development west of Thornton village and to the village centre, noted as the birthplace of the Bronte sisters.

Chairman of the Great Northern Railway Trail Forum Jeff McQuillan said: "Many people doubted whether we could achieve a traffic-free trail using this famous railway track with all the various landowners involved. Now we see the benefit of partnership working and close involvement with local communities to create a green corridor of lasting benefit."

Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is developing the trail with Bradford Council and the Great Northern Railway Trail Forum, a consortium of supporting organisations.

Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN), McInerney Homes, Cycling England and Bradford Council are providing the 350,000 needed for the latest phase.

David Hall, Sustrans' Yorkshire regional director, said: "The local landscape at Thornton is quite outstanding. Many people who travel regularly on Thornton Road will have no idea of the dramatic views across Clayton Valley, soon to be uniquely accessible to people for a stroll or a bike ride along the railway trail. This section of the trail will also provide a resource for children at Thornton Primary School as well as a safe route to the school from new housing now under development."

The new section of the trail is due for completion this autumn, with the entire six-mile project expected to finish by 2011.

Route sections between Cullingworth and Harecroft, and between Queensbury and Cockin Lane, Clayton, are already open to the public and proving popular.

With this latest phase there will be three viaducts and three miles of route open to cyclists, walkers and horse riders, offering a new perspective of the rolling hills and old mill towns of west Bradford.

The Great Northern Railway's Bradford-Keighley line, which joined a branch from Halifax at a triangular junction at Queensbury, was built between 1876 and 1884 and, mile for mile, was the most heavily engineered rail route in West Yorkshire.

Characterised by deep cuttings, high embankments, tunnels and superb viaducts, it was known by locomotive crews as the "Alpine route".

The line closed to passengers in May 1955 but goods traffic continued into the 1960s. Thornton Primary School is built on the former railway station and goods yard.

Thornton Viaduct has a unique S-shaped curve with a length of some 300 metres.

The Grade II listed structure is finely proportioned, of sandstone "brick" with arches in slender tapering piers supporting the bed of the former railway.

Twenty barrel vaulted arches, each of 40ft span, carried the railway over the steeply sided Pinch Beck Valley into Thornton station and some 17,000 cubic yards of masonry were used.