A planning application for the abandonment of a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire has attracted two thousand objections in just six days.
For five years, campaigners have been making the case for Queensbury Tunnel to form part of a new route for walkers and cyclists connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate, which manages the tunnel on the Department for Transport’s behalf, wants to permanently close it due to perceived safety concerns.
Nigel Thornley from Chester, one of more than 2,300 people who have objected to the plans since last Wednesday, commented on Bradford Council’s planning website: “It would be a travesty if this masterpiece of Victorian engineering was just abandoned when it could serve future generations. The emphasis today is on physical fitness to reduce the demand on our NHS and to increase the wellbeing of the population. This tunnel should be conserved as both a facility to be enjoyed by the population at large but also as a tribute to those gallant people who built it.”
Dr Peter Edwards from Pudsey said: “This tunnel has the potential to form an essential link in a developing network of cycle routes across West Yorkshire. It should be saved as part of an initiative to support sustainable, safe, healthy and environmentally-friendly transport linking socially-disadvantaged areas.”
Graham Richards from Keighley believes that “This proposal to infill and destroy Queensbury Tunnel is ludicrous. It’s a short-sighted solution that completely ignores the multiple benefits that keeping it open and developing it as a resource would achieve. As a leisure cyclist of 65 years old, I am not capable any longer of tackling hills like these between Bradford and Calderdale. This tunnel would be a wonderful asset, opening up a whole new area to cycle in, as well as encouraging people to commute by cycle.”
Around 50 people are recorded as being in support of the abandonment scheme; however, of these, all-bar-one have left comments in favour of the tunnel being brought back into use. Two objectors told the Queensbury Tunnel Society that they recorded their ‘stance’ on the plans as ‘Object’, only for it to show as ‘Support’ when their comments appeared online. The Council has been asked to investigate.
In February, Bradford and Calderdale councils confirmed their backing for the tunnel’s reopening as part of a greenway linking the two districts. According to a Sustrans study, it could bring £37.6 million in social, economic and tourism benefits over 30 years.
Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “We are both overwhelmed and inspired by the number of objections. They send the strongest possible message that the abandonment of Queensbury Tunnel - on very dodgy grounds and at a cost to the taxpayer of around £5 million - is simply unacceptable when it could play a positive future role as a sustainable transport corridor.”
“It’s time for Highways England and the Department for Transport to listen. Both profess to support active travel and yet they are conspiring to put beyond use a valuable asset which could create a strategic cycle link between Bradford District and Calderdale. It beggars belief.”