Notes to Editors

Queensbury Tunnel was built by the Great Northern Railway between 1874 and 1878 as part of the Halifax, Thornton & Keighley Railway. Work was initially expected to take two years but was delayed significantly by two of the seven construction shafts having to be abandoned due to water ingress. At least ten navvies lost their lives during the work.

The tunnel, which is 2,501 yards (2,287 metres) long, opened to freight traffic in October 1878 and passenger trains in December 1879. The line between Holmfield and Queensbury, which included the tunnel, was officially closed on 28th May 1956. Track lifting took place in 1963.

Queensbury Tunnel would be the longest in the UK to host a shared path if the proposal to reopen it for such a purpose is successful. Currently Combe Down Tunnel in Bath holds that position at 1,829 yards (1,672 metres). The longest in Europe is the 2,931-yard (2,680 metres) Uitzi Tunnel on the Plazaola Greenway in northern Spain. However plans are being developed to restore Rhondda Tunnel in South Wales for cycle path use; this has a length of 3,443 yards (3,148 metres).

In June 2017, a Sustrans study - Estimating the economic impact of reopening walking and cycling routes around Queensbury Tunnel - found that a cycle network connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax via the tunnel would deliver £37.6 million in social, economic and tourism benefits over 30 years. Using a tunnel repair cost developed by Bradford Council, this would offer a Benefit:Cost Ratio of 2.31:1, regarded as ‘high value for money’.

The Historical Railways Estate (HRE), part of Highways England, is responsible for inspecting, maintaining and limiting the liability associated with around 3,200 disused railway bridges, abutments, tunnels, cuttings, culverts and viaducts. HRE’s remit was formerly fulfilled by BRB (Residuary) until its abolition on 30th September 2013.

HRE’s proposed abandonment scheme has been split into two phases, the first of which is for preparatory works and got underway on 1st October. Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the original estimated cost of these works was £550,000, but it had risen to £5.00 million by 18 June 2020.

The scheme’s main phase requires planning permission - which Highways England applied for in May 2019 - and has been costed by AMCO-Giffen, the appointed contractor, at £3.016 million. By October 2020, more than 7,150 people had objected to the plans.

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