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'Fragile' road prompts complaints

Residents have written to Highways England about the worsening condition of a road being used by works traffic to access a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire.

The company is currently spending more than £1 million on remedial works to Queensbury Tunnel - between Bradford and Halifax - ahead of a £3 million scheme to partly infill and abandon the structure. Meanwhile campaigners, supported by Bradford and Calderdale councils, are trying to save the tunnel for future inclusion within a cycle network.

Vehicular access to the tunnel is only possible via a private road heading down the hill from Queensbury to the site of a former railway station. According to residents, its surface was badly damaged during a tunnel maintenance project in 2015. Following complaints from their drivers, the contractor infilled potholes with loose stone which has since washed out, creating a hazard for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The latest works, carried out by AMCO-Giffen, has involved heavy goods vehicles delivering plant, equipment, steelwork and other materials, most of which is being unloaded on private land against the wishes of the tenant; it is then taken down the Great Northern Railway Trail towards the tunnel. Daily convoys of workmen and engineers have made matters worse, prompting 11 householders to outline their concerns to Highways England about the deteriorating road surface and mud left on the Trail. More than two weeks later, they are still awaiting a reply.

Councillor Andrew Senior, representing Queensbury Ward, said: “Highways England had a duty to properly repair the road following its last programme of works in the tunnel. Its failure to do so has caused ruts to form and potholes to become deeper over the past few winters, increasing the level of risk to those who use the road.

“The first phase of a potentially much bigger project is now underway and it’s clear that the impact on residents has not been given due consideration. I would urge Highways England to provide funding for a full repair of the road. In comparison to the rest of the scheme, the cost involved would be small.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “The road gets worse on a daily basis and drivers have to weave around the potholes to avoid damaging their cars. It’s in a fragile state now - some of the ruts are 8 inches deep and several yards long.

“The contractor recently filled some of the bigger holes, but it’s gone beyond the need for patch repairs. You’d think a company called Highways England could do something about it, but they seem unwilling to accept responsibility for their actions. The consequences are being suffered by residents, visitors and people who use the Trail. After four years, everyone’s fed up with it.”

According to the deed of sale, the road was transferred into private ownership in 1970 and Highways England’s right of access over it comes with the obligation of “making good any damage to the said property”.

AMCO-Giffen’s Sustainability Policy commits it to “engage with the communities in the areas we work in order to make a positive contribution to their environment” and “be a good neighbour and build trust within local communities”.

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To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ Yij7v7lM2H4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

A collection of high-resolution photos for Media use is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/media/imagery.shtml

More general information on the campaign is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 18th February 2019

Council backing for ‘strategic’ tunnel path

Bradford Council has expressed its formal support for the “transformational” potential of creating England’s longest underground cycle route, but says the project cannot be financed from within its own diminishing budgets.

Built in the 1870s, the 1.4-mile long Queensbury Tunnel was the engineering centrepiece of a railway linking Halifax to Bradford and Keighley, but it closed in 1956 and parts of it are now in poor condition. Highways England is currently carrying out £1 million worth of improvement works to the structure, after which it intends to spend £3 million sealing and partially infilling it. However campaigners believe the money would be better invested on repairing the tunnel to form part of a cycle network connecting the communities formerly served by the railway.

Yesterday (5th February), members of Bradford Council’s Executive accepted the recommendations of a report which commits the Council to lobby Highways England for a delay in its abandonment works whilst stakeholders explore sources of funding for the scheme. Calderdale Council has also endorsed the cycle path proposal and will support efforts to move it forward.

The report reveals that a Bradford to Halifax cycle path - passing through the tunnel - would cost £16.3 million to construct but return £2.31 in social, economic and tourism benefits for every £1 spent. The Department for Transport regards this ratio of benefit-to-cost as representing “high value for money”.

Bradford Council will now work with Sustrans, the Queensbury Tunnel Society and Calderdale Council in developing an ‘advocacy document’ before making a bid to the Transforming Cities fund; however the outcome of such an application is unlikely to be known before the Spring/Summer. Highways England has stated its intention to begin the main phase of abandonment works at about the same time, although it has not yet submitted a planning application.

Speaking during the meeting, Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning & Transport said: “This is about a strategic cycle network, building on City Connect 1 which connected Bradford and Leeds. We have the Shipley Greenway now - finishing that work to connect Shipley in the north of the District into the city centre.

“[The Bradford-Halifax path] is coming out the other way - going west from the city centre and south down to Calderdale. The tunnel is really the transformational element in the middle of it - the jewel in the crown of that route.”

He went on: “There’s some really good data behind it - and evidence - which shows it can be delivered and we’ve really just got to increase that pressure to make sure that it gets the chance to succeed and be restored.”

Councillor John Pennington, leader of the Conservative group on Bradford Council, said: “We have a huge opportunity here to make this tunnel - and the extending track at either side - into a huge attraction for our city and district, and, as Councillors, this is something we should invest in for our future generations.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “At a time of uncertainty, it’s great that Councillors of all political persuasions are uniting behind a project that will benefit our health, our environment, our economy and our children.

“Queensbury Tunnel would become a nationally significant landmark on our expanding cycle network, helping to deliver Bradford’s aspiration to become a ‘capital of cycling’.

“We welcome the Council’s support and look forward to working with it on a funding bid.”

An ePetition backing the proposed conversion of Queensbury Tunnel as a cycle path has so far been signed by more than 10,600 people.

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To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ Yij7v7lM2H4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

A collection of high-resolution photos for Media use is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/media/imagery.shtml

More general information on the campaign is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 6th February 2019

Tunnel visit inspires cycling vision

Stakeholders, cycling groups and heritage campaigners gathered at a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire yesterday (28th January) as the battle to save it from permanent closure enters a crucial phase.

Built in the 1870s, Queensbury Tunnel was the engineering centrepiece of a railway linking Halifax to Bradford and Keighley, but it closed in 1956 and parts of it are now in poor condition. Highways England is currently carrying out £1 million worth of improvement works to the structure, after which it intends to spend £3 million sealing and partially infilling it, subject to planning approval.

Campaigners believe the money would be better invested on repairing the tunnel to form part of a cycle network connecting the communities formerly served by the railway. Although this would be more expensive, a Sustrans study found that the network would deliver £37.6 million in social, economic and tourism benefits over 30 years.

As part of the ongoing works, contractor AMCO-Giffen has installed lighting and a temporary roadway for about 120 metres at the tunnel’s northern end, offering a glimpse of how it might look if the cycle path proposal went ahead. On Monday, more than 100 cyclists from across the District took part in a ‘solidarity ride’ to the tunnel to take a look inside, joining about 50 supporters of the campaign and Councillors from Bradford and Calderdale.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “It was an inspiring event. For so many to turn out on a biting weekday afternoon was really humbling. Great commitment and so many smiling faces!

“More and more people are buying into our vision - seeing the tunnel as a transformative asset, not a liability that must be destroyed. Providing safe, high-quality infrastructure is vital if we are to deliver the much-needed culture shift away from our reliance on cars to more sustainable forms of transport, particularly for local journeys.”

Councillor Dot Foster, who leads on cycling issues for Calderdale Council, said: “One of the biggest barriers to cycling is having to mix with traffic on the roads; the tunnel would be traffic-free - which is perfect - and it avoids having to climb over Queensbury hill.

“Crucially, it also opens up opportunities for communities along the route in terms of education, employment and leisure. This project works on so many levels which is why there’s a huge amount of enthusiasm for it.”

However Queensbury Tunnel cannot be reopened as a cycle path unless another statutory body takes on its ownership. Members of Bradford Council’s Executive Committee will consider the future of the Victorian structure at a meeting on 5th February, with a recommendation that they “fully recognise and support the benefits in saving the tunnel for the enjoyment of future generations and its potential conversion to a leisure cycling facility connecting Bradford city centre and Halifax town centre.”

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning & Transport said: “A Bradford to Halifax cycleway with Queensbury Tunnel at its heart has such huge potential. It would be a transformational project, not just for the area but for Yorkshire and the North of England.

“You could see from the huge turnout yesterday how many people are passionate about restoring the tunnel and we’ll continue to make the case to government to support us with feasibility funding and more time to assess how this great asset could be restored for future generations.”

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To link to a video of archive photos showing the tunnel or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/eNlzU56knpU
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/eNlzU56knpU?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

A collection of high-resolution photos for Media use is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/media/imagery.shtml

More general information on the campaign is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 29th January 2019

Tunnel dewatering under investigation

The Environment Agency is investigating an operation to pump millions of gallons of floodwater out of a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire following concerns over potential pollution to a nearby stream.

The 1.4-mile long Queensbury Tunnel is the focus of a campaign to reopen it as part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate, which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, wants to permanently close it because of a perceived threat to public safety.

Since September, the southern half of the tunnel has been inundated by an estimated 6.6 million gallons of water after a pumping station was switched off. The equipment had been installed in 2016 to keep the Victorian structure dewatered, but Highways England failed to pay the £50 annual rent for the land on which it is sited.

On 4th January, contractor AMCO-Giffen started to pump the water out at the Bradford end of the tunnel, discharging it via an old construction drain into Hole Bottom Beck which feeds a fish pond downstream.

An Environment Agency source has confirmed to the Queensbury Tunnel Society that no permit is in place to cover this operation and it appears to be non-compliant with the requirements of the Agency’s Regulatory Position Statement; this is due to the expected duration of the works - more than three months - and the potentially-contaminated nature of the floodwater. Investigators are discussing the matter with AMCO-Giffen.

Graeme Bickerdike, the Society’s Engineering Co-ordinator, said: “When the tunnel was last dewatered in 2015, the Environment Agency intervened to stop Highways England’s contractor pumping solids and heavily-silted water into Strines Beck at the Halifax end. Equipment had to be installed to filter it before entering the watercourse.

“The floodwater in the tunnel today is still contaminated and contains a considerable amount of rubbish - cans, tyres, plastics, polystyrene, old pallets… We’ve taken samples both upstream and downstream of the discharge point; at the moment, the discolouration appears relatively minor but that could change when AMCO-Giffen starts to undertake different work activities.

“It’s surprising that a permit was not obtained before this operation got underway - if one was required - but we’re reassured that the Environment Agency is investigating the circumstances to ensure all relevant regulations are being complied with and appropriate safeguards put in place.

“As a responsible contractor, we’re sure AMCO-Giffen would not wish to be responsible for polluting a stream or affecting local wildlife.”

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To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ Yij7v7lM2H4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

A collection of high-resolution photos for Media use is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/media/imagery.shtml

More general information on the campaign is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 17th January 2019

Tunnel abandonment cost hits £4 million

The cost of abandoning a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire has risen to more than £4 million as a result of logistical difficulties caused by flooding.

For the past five years, the 1.4-mile long Queensbury Tunnel has been the focus of a campaign to reopen it as part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport (DfT), wants to permanently close it because of a perceived threat to public safety.

The abandonment scheme - which is expected to involve infilling around 15% of the tunnel - requires planning permission and was originally costed at £2.7 million in February 2016. This rose to £7 million based on plans submitted to Bradford Council last May, but the specification was then changed to use cheaper materials, reducing that figure to £3.6 million.

For workforce safety reasons, preparatory works to strengthen parts of the tunnel’s lining are currently underway, but it was intended that these would be restricted to sections at both ends. However, over the past four months, the southern half of the tunnel has been inundated by an estimated 6.6 million gallons of water. Highways England failed to pay two annual rent payments of £50 for land on which a pumping station is sited, resulting in the equipment being switched-off by the landowner.

To complete the strengthening works, the contractor has installed a new pump and is now faced with the task of establishing a safe access route through a 300-metre long section near the tunnel’s midpoint which was previously designated as an exclusion zone due to the severe defects within it. Together with the dewatering operation, this work will add more than £400,000 to the bill.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “HRE has lost control of this project, largely through its own failings. The public will receive no benefit from abandonment, but the financial burden placed on its shoulders is becoming heavier. Perversely, £1 million is currently being spent improving the tunnel’s condition before a further £3 million is wasted on a partial infilling scheme. It’s becoming an implausible farce.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “Shortly, we expect HRE to ask Bradford Council for permission to progress abandonment. Most of the tunnel beneath Queensbury would be left to collapse. HRE hopes that the tunnel is so deep that the 440 dwellings within its zone of influence would not be affected by any collapse, but how can we have confidence in their assessment of the complex risks when they prove persistently incapable to doing the basics competently?”

For the cycle path proposal to go ahead, the tunnel’s ownership would have to be transferred to Bradford Council, for which it would receive a £3 million dowry. Funding is currently being sought for a feasibility study into the issues associated with the tunnel’s reopening, whilst the Council’s Executive Committee is expected to consider the Victorian structure’s future at a meeting in February.

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To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ Yij7v7lM2H4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

A collection of high-resolution photos for Media use is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/media/imagery.shtml

More general information on the campaign is available from:
www.queensburytunnel.org.uk/

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 14th January 2019

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'Fragile' road prompts complaints

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