Queensbury renovation has popular support

20 February 2020

The good people of West Yorkshire have rallied against the closure of the 1.4-mile (2.3km) Queensbury Tunnel, with 6,000 signing a petition in support. While this does not amount to a pardon for the abandoned 140-year-old structure, hopefully the Department for Transport (DfT) will take notice.

The Queensbury Tunnel is a disused railway tunnel that was built between 1874 and 1878 by Benton & Woodiwiss of Derby, with Henry John Fraser as the Resident Engineer. The tunnel was in use for almost 80 years until it was finally closed in 1956.

For a full description of the project, including accounts from the construction phase, visit: www. ice.org.uk/knowledge-and-resources/historicalengineering- works

Currently managed by Highways England on behalf of the DfT, the plan is to fill the tunnel in at both ends and leave the remainder of the structure to simply collapse, sealing the the tunnel forever. This is for valid safety reasons as there have been collapses already, and the tunnel, on a 1% gradient, has a tendency to be submerged at the southern portal during food conditions. There is no doubt that it is currently dangerous and the public needs to be protected, with this proposal projected to cost GBP 7M (USD 9.1M).

Enter the Queensbury Tunnel Society. This heroic band of pro-tunnel activists hopes to turn the tunnel into a key part of a ‘greenway’ between the cities of Bradford and Halifax, with the bore itself forming a high-quality cycle route.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the society, said: “There is a ridiculous conflict between the stated aims of the DfT and Highways England who want to encourage more walking and cycling through investment [...] which could play a crucial, centrepiece role in a strategic link between two large urban centres. As we move towards more sustainable forms of transport, the value of the tunnel as an asset will increase. [We have seen] an unprecedented response and we call on the council to reject Highways England’s application.”

According to the society, Bradford Council has formally endorsed the greenway proposal and are working to develop a GBP 23M (USD 29.9M) bid to fund construction and long-term maintenance. A decision is expected in the spring. A study suggested that the route would generate GBP 37.6M (USD 48.9M) in social, economic and tourism benefits over 30 years, with a 2.31:1 positive economic return.

Projected pecuniary benefits aside, it is a chance to use existing underground space to make the country a little bit nicer.