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Boost for Yorkshire cycle tunnel as landowner backs campaign

George Smith
16 Jul 2019

Local campaign to turn disused railway line into cycle tunnel one step closer to fruition

A grassroots campaign to transform an old railway line in Yorkshire into the longest cycle tunnel in England has received a huge boost as landowner David Sunderland stated he will not allow the tunnel to shut.

His rejection comes as Highways England, which manages the tunnel on behalf of the Department for Transport, filed an application to fill in parts of the tunnel with concrete and abandon it to collapse.

Sunderland, who owns land at one end of the Queensbury tunnel, described the line as 'an important and valuable public asset' when commenting on Bradford Council’s planning and building website. His refusal to cooperate sits there alongside almost 3,500 objections - in contrast to the current tally of fewer than 50 approvals.

Campaigners argue this is a unique opportunity to transform the tunnel, which has remained out of use since 1956, into the heart of a new cycle network connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley.

Their argument rests on numerous economic, health and environmental grounds, with a report by the sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, suggesting the cycle route could bring £37.6 million worth of benefits over the next 30 years.

Moreover, after mismanagement by Highways England, plans to abandon the tunnel are estimated to cost £5 million, not significantly less than the £6.9 million estimated to make the required repairs.

Speaking to the Guardian, coordinator of the Queensbury Tunnel Society’s engineering activities, Graeme Bickerdike, said: 'As we look at our environmental and health responsibilities, we need to facilitate people getting out of cars and onto bikes, which means providing the infrastructure for it.'

Local MPs Holly Lynch and Judith Lynch, as well as the Bradford and Calverdale councils also support the tunnel’s planned conversation. In parliament last week Judith Lynch said: 'The tunnel should be the jewel in the crown of a new cycle and walk greenway to connect the great city of Bradford with Halifax. We should be taking advantage of our historical assets to benefit all of us for years to come.'

The decision on whether to grant planning permission to allow the closure to go ahead is expected by the end of the month.

A spokesperson for Highways England said: 'We have now submitted our planning application to Bradford Council for further safety work to close Queensbury tunnel.

'All the comments that have been received so far will help the council make their decision and we would like to thank everyone for taking the time to comment.'

Photo: queensburytunnel.org.uk

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