News Releases

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Cost-cutting claim over tunnel plans

Highways England has been accused of “hypocrisy” after it scaled back plans for the abandonment of a disused railway tunnel in West Yorkshire which it insists is a threat to community safety.

Queensbury Tunnel, between Bradford and Halifax, closed to rail traffic in 1956 and is now managed by Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate team on the Department for Transport’s behalf. However campaigners, supported by Bradford and Calderdale councils, want the Victorian structure to be reopened as part of a new greenway connecting the two districts.

Around 20% of the tunnel is currently in poor condition and Highways England claimed in a recent press statement that it “needs to be closed to reduce the risk to the community around Queensbury Tunnel.” The abandonment scheme - which requires planning permission from Bradford Council - has now attracted more than 3,500 objections.

Previously unpublished plans obtained by the Queensbury Tunnel Society show that, in May 2018, it was Highways England’s intention to infill the tunnel with concrete beneath six ventilation shafts which it had identified as the cause of greatest concern. These ‘plugs’ would have extended for 17 metres between blockwork bulkheads. However plans submitted last month for the Council’s consideration instead show the use of a lightweight aggregate fill retained by steel baskets for just 3 metres either side of each shaft. It’s understood that this system is previously untested for applications of this type.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “Because of its strength and longevity, concrete is the material conventionally chosen for tunnel infilling projects where significant loads are anticipated. Like abandonment, concrete shaft support plugs would have effectively lasted forever.

“On the other hand, these steel mesh baskets have a reduced load-bearing capacity and will eventually corrode. Highways England no longer intends to keeps the tunnel dewatered after abandonment so the baskets will either be standing in water or subject to high relative humidity. HE needs to explain how long these support structures will remain serviceable for and what will happen thereafter, as they cannot be maintained or replaced once the tunnel is sealed.”

Under the revised abandonment plans, the total length of tunnel to be infilled has been reduced by 12%, from 319 metres to 280 metres. The remaining 2,007 metres - mostly below the populated part of Queensbury - will be left to collapse over time. Highways England believes that the tunnel is so deep below the village that there is no risk of future ground settlement, but last year it was criticised by the Coal Authority for not properly considering how the tunnel - in a state of collapse - might interact with the extensive local mining legacy.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “This is pure hypocrisy. For the past three years Highways England has been justifying its abandonment scheme on the basis of the tunnel being a short-term threat to the community, despite having no evidence to demonstrate this.

“Now it’s seeking Council approval for compromise proposals involving cheaper materials which increase the long-term risks to properties close to the shafts. Cutting corners to save money often comes at a high price. How can anyone have confidence in an abandonment strategy driven by budgetary considerations rather than robust engineering judgements?”

Contractor AMCO-Giffen has had to develop an alternative approach to ongoing preparatory works in the tunnel after Highways England failed to pay the £50 annual rent on a pumping station at its southern end, driving up costs from £560,000 in August 2018 to £1.97 million in May 2019. It’s likely that the contracted cost of the main abandonment scheme - which is set at £3 million - will also increase after logistical constraints prompted an extension of the programme from 34 to 47 weeks.

The deadline for determination of the planning application is 3rd September.

Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is continuing to investigate after nine pollution events were reported to it during June, resulting from floodwater being pumped out of the tunnel into a watercourse at its northern end. In the worst incident, Hole Bottom Beck turned black for about six hours.

The operation to remove 8.2 million gallons of water from the tunnel began in January and is now thought to be half complete.

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To link to a video on the Bradford-Halifax Greenway or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/LzfdJna0Tno
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LzfdJna0Tno?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

To view the abandonment plans, or object/comment on them:
http://tiny.cc/TunnelPlans

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 July 2019

Clearer vision for tunnel greenway

Efforts to create a foot and cycle connection between Bradford and Halifax look set to shift up a gear with the publication of an ‘advocacy document’ to support funding bids.

The proposal, which is supported by Bradford and Calderdale councils, Sustrans, the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group and the Queensbury Tunnel Society, would link communities either side of the ridge which separates the two districts. Passing close to several schools and colleges, the new route would follow the Thornton Road corridor out of Bradford before disappearing underground into the historic Queensbury railway tunnel, emerging at Holmfield from where it would head down the valley into Halifax.

Campaigners believe it would become a magnet for tourists as a landmark addition to the country’s cycle network and offer the potential for commuting trips between Bradford District and Calderdale. An average of 14,300 work journeys are made between the urban centres every day, but, in 2011, 70% of them involved a car. In order to address health and environmental challenges, both Councils recognise the need to promote a shift to sustainable forms of transport, driven by the provision of safe cycling infrastructure.

Councillor Jane Scullion, Deputy Leader of Calderdale Council, said: “Encouraging people to leave their car at home and instead use active travel methods is a priority for Calderdale Council. Now more than ever, we need to be taking bold steps to ensure we provide high-quality, sustainable alternatives to driving.

“The opening up of the Queensbury tunnel would transform access from the north of Halifax to west Bradford and complement the wider strategic cycle networks planned in both boroughs. This is a unique opportunity to preserve and utilise a historic asset and leave a legacy for future generations.”

At 1.4 miles in length, Queensbury Tunnel would serve as the Greenway’s focal point, creating a strategic cross-District link without which it would be impractical to establish a route with cycle-friendly gradients. If reopened, it would be the longest cycling tunnel in the country; however its current custodians, Highways England, have recently applied for planning permission to abandon the structure due to perceived safety concerns.

Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Portfolio Holder - Regeneration, Planning & Transport, Bradford Council, said: “The evidence shows that a Bradford-Halifax Greenway with Queensbury Tunnel as the jewel at its heart would provide a huge boost to the district economically and for our tourism and leisure industries. Our advocacy document outlines this and has a huge range of support from the National Science & Media Museum, Sustrans, the Civic Society and many others.

“I’m calling on Highways England to withdraw their planning application and get round the table with Bradford Council to talk about how we can sustainably fund this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save and restore the tunnel as part of a greenway of national significance.”

The Bradford-Halifax Greenway - or CityConnect 3 - would run directly through an inclusive growth corridor being developed by local councils and the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Although the route would cost around £16 million to construct, it’s expected to return £2.31 in benefits for every £1 invested; the Government regards that as High value for money. An estimated £10.8 million in tourism benefits would be accrued over 30 years, with much of that figure resulting from the inclusion of Queensbury Tunnel.

Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax, said: “I’m proud to support the campaign to save this historic gem which could play a key role in promoting sustainable transport and attracting tourists. We know that there are increasing numbers of foreign visitors coming to our region after seeing the Tour de Yorkshire and wouldn’t it be fantastic if our local area could offer both the longest continuous climb in England at Cragg Vale and the longest cycle tunnel?

“It’s a great shame that this engineering triumph could be lost forever and, having met with the tunnel campaigners and heard the strength of feeling from the local community, it’s getting my full backing.”

Judith Cummins MP, within whose Bradford South constituency most of the tunnel lies, said: “It’s important for local people to support the campaign and register an objection to the destruction of the Queensbury Tunnel, which 3,000 people have already done. It shows what it means to residents in Bradford and Halifax, and that they do not want a historical asset to be forever lost.

“A renovated tunnel would form the centrepiece of a cycle and walk trail connecting Bradford with Halifax, which would be enjoyed by current and future generations.”

The development of the advocacy document was led by Bradford Council and it was launched at an event in Queensbury’s Victoria Hall on Friday (28th June), attended by MPs, councillors, cycling campaigners and members of the local community. It identifies an initial need for a feasibility study to fully understand the challenges associated with the Greenway and further demonstrate that it represents a good investment.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “We’re presented with a now-or-never opportunity. If we’re serious about meeting our long-term environmental and health obligations, we must commit to schemes like the Bradford-Halifax Greenway.

“We certainly cannot allow Highways England’s questionable judgement to destroy a magnificent feat of engineering that could still play a valuable transport role.”

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To link to a video on the Bradford-Halifax Greenway or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/LzfdJna0Tno
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LzfdJna0Tno?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

To view the abandonment plans, or object/comment on them:
http://tiny.cc/TunnelPlans

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 28th June 2019

Objections flood in against tunnel plans

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.”

The planning application can be viewed via Bradford Council’s planning portal (www.tiny.cc/TunnelPlans) where comments and objections can also be left. The closing date is 5th July.

Meanwhile, the number of people who’ve signed an ePetition in favour of the tunnel’s reopening has risen above 11,000.

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

To view the abandonment plans, or object/comment on them:
http://tiny.cc/TunnelPlans

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 11th June 2019

Battle starts against tunnel plans

Campaigners hoping to reopen a disused West Yorkshire railway tunnel as a sustainable transport corridor have asked supporters to join them in fighting a planning application to abandon the 1.4-mile long Victorian structure.

Queensbury Tunnel, which closed in 1956, could form part of a new route for walkers and cyclists connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel on the Department for Transport’s behalf, wants to permanently close it due to perceived safety concerns. Plans for the scheme have now been submitted for Bradford Council’s approval.

For the past five years, the Queensbury Tunnel Society has been working with transport, heritage and environmental groups, MPs and local Councillors to promote the idea of an ambitious cycle network to the west of Bradford. More than 10,800 people have signed an ePetition backing the proposal whilst Bradford and Calderdale councils announced their support for the scheme in February. 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 Society, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is a remarkable public asset which establishes a strategic connection between Calderdale and Bradford District, overcoming the ridge that separates them. If there is ever to be a cycle link between the two areas, it will have to go through the tunnel. So what’s needed here is long-term vision.

“We will have failed future generations if the opportunities presented by the tunnel are allowed to slip through our fingers. It could help us to meet our emerging health and environmental obligations, improve connectivity for commuters, draw visitors to explore our built heritage and natural landscapes, and serve as a leisure facility for communities along its route. It also offers high value for money, with £2.31 returned for every £1 invested. In contrast, abandonment is likely to cost around £5 million and offer absolutely no benefit.”

HRE’s plans reveal that less than 15% of the tunnel will be filled in, focussed around the two entrances and six shafts. The remainder - mostly passing beneath the populated part of Queensbury - will be left to flood and collapse over time. Around 440 residential properties lie within the tunnel’s ‘zone of influence’, as defined in a report from HRE’s consulting engineers.

As the tunnel is typically 360 feet (110 metres) below ground, HRE believes there is very little risk of ground settlement in the event of a collapse, but the Coal Authority has previously expressed the view that the complex interaction between the tunnel and Queensbury’s extensive mining legacy has not been properly assessed, stating that it “merits much more detailed investigation and analysis”.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “HRE wants to walk away from the tunnel and let nature take its course - an approach driven largely by budgetary constraints. In doing so - no matter how low the risks might be - they are inflicting permanent uncertainty on the community. Is that appropriate for a government-owned company?

“The people of Queensbury should ask themselves whether they would prefer to live above a tunnel that’s been sealed up and left to collapse and flood, or one that’s subject to an ongoing regime of inspection and maintenance; perhaps even fully repaired so it’s safe enough to cycle through. If they don’t like the sound of the first option, they need to make their voices heard by objecting to HRE’s planning application.”

Comments and objections can be lodged via the planning portal on Bradford Council’s website, at tiny.cc/TunnelPlans.

To coincide with the planning application’s submission, the Queensbury Tunnel Society has launched a new video in which campaigners, stakeholders and politicians consider the significance of the tunnel and the benefits it would bring if reopened. The Society will also be delivering a leaflet to homes above the tunnel which addresses key issues relating to HRE’s abandonment scheme.

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

To view the abandonment plans, or object/comment on them:
http://tiny.cc/TunnelPlans

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 June 2019

MPs show support for tunnel reopening

Local MPs have come together to demonstrate their backing for Queensbury Tunnel’s proposed revival as part of a walking and cycling route connecting Bradford district to Halifax.

On Friday afternoon (5th April), Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, and Naz Shah, MP for Bradford West - within whose constituencies the tunnel lies - was joined at its northern entrance by Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, and a group of Councillors.

Members of the Queensbury Tunnel Society updated the MPs on the current position with their campaign, buoyed by Bradford Council’s recent decision to formally endorse the proposal to reopen the Victorian structure. In February, officials told the Council’s Executive that, over 30 years, a Bradford to Halifax Greenway - via Queensbury Tunnel - would generate £2.31 in social, economic and tourism benefits for every £1 invested in it. An advocacy document has been developed to support funding bids for the scheme.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Society, said: “We’re delighted that more and more people recognise the transformative potential of Queensbury Tunnel, attracting visitors to the area and improving connectivity.

“It’s not just a wondrous feat of engineering; it’s also a key connector that could help us meet our long-term health and environmental responsibilities. We cannot remain reliant on cars for short journeys, but the lack of safe, high-quality cycling infrastructure continues to act as a barrier. We must address that.”

Meanwhile Highways England, which manages the 1.4-mile long tunnel for the Department for Transport, is still progressing plans to partially infill it due to perceived safety issues.

Phase 1 of its abandonment project, which involves strengthening vulnerable sections of the lining, has been hampered by flooding and is not now expected to finish before the end of May, two months late. Its estimated cost has risen to “at least £1.2-1.4 million”. Phase 2, comprising the main abandonment works, requires planning permission and has a contracted price-tag of just over £3 million.

Philips Davies MP said: “Spending so much money on destroying something with so much potential seems ludicrous. The Queensbury Tunnel would provide a connecting link between the Calderdale and Bradford districts via the longest underground cycle route in the country. We want to promote that and champion the Victorian architecture of the tunnel.”

Judith Cummins MP said: “The Queensbury Tunnel is a great historical asset, and destroying it now is just a convenient solution for the DfT. If the tunnel is sealed, any potential economic benefits from it disappear as well.

“The Queensbury Tunnel Society should be praised for finding a positive use of the tunnel as part of a cycling and walking trail that will be one of the best in the country, which will provide a long-term boost to the local economies of Queensbury, Bradford, and the wider West Yorkshire area.”

Naz Shah MP said: “What I’ve seen is really inspiring. To see the tunnel and the engineers working on it, meeting the cyclists and local residents, it really does leave optimism that we can turn this into something beautiful for the rest of the country. The potential is really exciting.”

--ENDS--

To link to a video from the visit:
(Link) https://youtu.be/0DOIh1KAjgw
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0DOIh1KAjgw?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 5th April 2019

Tunnel dewatering “back to square one”

The level of floodwater in a disused West Yorkshire railway tunnel is back to where it was ten weeks ago after pollution and equipment issues halted an operation to remove it.

Queensbury Tunnel, between Bradford and Halifax, was inundated by an estimated 6.6 million gallons of water after a pumping station at its southern end was shut down last September. This followed a failure on the part of Highways England - which manages the Victorian structure for the Department for Transport - to ensure that the £50 annual rent was paid for land on which the equipment is sited.

Instead of negotiating a new deal with the landowner, Highways England instructed AMCO-Giffen, its contractor, to pump the water 1.4 miles to the north end of the tunnel and discharge it into a nearby watercourse. The operation got underway on 4th January; however, in late February, the main pump unit was replaced twice in two days and a series of pollution incidents were subsequently reported to the Environment Agency. It’s understood that, since then, little or no pumping has taken place.

Recent heavy rainfall caused the floodwater to rise and its level has now returned to where it was before pumping started, extending more than 1,200 yards into the tunnel.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: “When the pumping station was switched off, AMCO-Giffen told the landowner that they would have all the water out within three weeks. Six months later they’re back to square one.

“The real purpose of their presence in the tunnel is to complete a programme of strengthening works to sections of the lining. When they started in October, those works were costed at £560,000, but the new pumping regime and associated engineering requirements pushed that figure to an estimated £1.2-1.4 million. They were intending to finish in March but that’s now slipped to the end of May.

“This was always a needless and high-risk strategy; both the taxpayer and the environment have paid the price for it. Costs are increasing but no benefits have been delivered.”

On 2nd March, the Environment Agency launched an investigation after heavily-silted water was filmed discharging into Hole Bottom Beck from a drain connected to the tunnel. During the following week, evidence was gathered of other similar incidents. The Queensbury Tunnel Society, which is campaigning to reopen the tunnel as part of a new cycle network, understands that Environment Agency officials told AMCO-Giffen that they must not pump any water from the tunnel “unless they can guarantee it is clean 100% of the time”.

Water treatment equipment arrived at the tunnel yesterday (20th March) ahead of an expected resumption to the pumping operation. However AMCO-Giffen first has to obtain a permit which could potentially impose conditions such as a limit on the rate at which the floodwater can be discharged.

Professor Barney Lerner, Chair of The Friends of Bradford’s Becks, said: “Why did work start without this essential paperwork being in place?

“In January we witnessed heavy, black sediment all the way down Hole Bottom Beck. The pollution reached beyond the confluence with Clayton Beck, a mile downstream. This chokes the bed of the river, suffocating the aquatic invertebrates that fish and birds feed on.

“I am deeply saddened to find that, yet again, one of Bradford’s becks has been thoughtlessly polluted through unauthorised discharges.”

--ENDS--

To link to the videos of silt pollution:
(Link) https://youtu.be/1UJGXsZcJGE
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1UJGXsZcJGE?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 21st March 2019

Pollution incidents linked to tunnel

The Environment Agency is investigating two incidents which resulted in pollution to a West Yorkshire stream last week.

Hole Bottom Beck is one of several watercourses that come together to form Bradford Beck. It flows northwards from Queensbury, passing within yards of a disused railway tunnel which is the focus of an ongoing engineering project being undertaken by AMCO-Giffen, under contract to Highways England. Part of the work involves pumping an estimated 6.6 million gallons of floodwater from the tunnel into a culvert which Hole Bottom Beck flows through.

Last Tuesday (26th February), the contractor was seen loading a piece of pumping equipment - described by a witness as “looking fire-damaged” - onto a wagon which had arrived two hours earlier with an identical piece of equipment. Also that morning, locals reported smelling diesel and seeing pollution in the beck, extending for at least 200 metres from the exit of the culvert close to Brow Lane in Clayton.

Members of the public reported the incident to the Environment Agency on Friday (1st March) and an officer attended site during the afternoon; however he was unable to discuss the matter with AMCO-Giffen as their staff had left for the day. The officer acknowledged that patches of diesel could still be seen on the surface of the water for a considerable distance from the culvert.

Diane Fogarty, who owns land nearby, said: “We live in a valley so all noise tends to get amplified but, since they started pumping in January, the rushing water has been loud enough to keep us awake on occasions.

“The pollution is a disgrace. We’ve had to stop our dogs drinking from the beck; it’s affected a lot of vegetation on the banks and the smell is awful. It’s got into our lake which we’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money on over the years, creating a valuable wildlife habitat; there are hundreds of fish in there now. I can’t tell you how angry we are about this.

“If an individual had caused the pollution, the authorities would come down on them like a tonne of bricks, but these big companies seem to get away with anything. It’s about time the Environment Agency stepped in and put a stop to it. Why aren’t they taking enforcement action?”

Professor Barney Lerner, Chair of The Friends of Bradford’s Becks, said: “I understand that the contractors working in the tunnel do not hold a permit to discharge into Hole Bottom Beck; neither am I aware of any application having been registered for a groundwater discharge exemption. This would enable a moderate flow of clean, uncontaminated groundwater to be legally discharged to the beck.

“Why has work been allowed to start without this essential paperwork being in place?

“In January we witnessed heavy, black sediment all the way down Hole Bottom Beck. The pollution reached beyond the confluence with Clayton Beck, a mile downstream. This chokes the bed of the river, suffocating the aquatic invertebrates that fish and birds feed on.

“The diesel pollution is odorous, unsightly and contaminates bank-side vegetation. It is harmful to farm animals, dogs and wildlife that might drink from the beck. I am deeply saddened to find that, yet again, one of Bradford’s becks is being thoughtlessly polluted through unauthorised discharges.”

On Friday (1st March), a member of the Queensbury Tunnel Society - which is campaigning to reopen the tunnel as a cycle path connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax - carried out an inspection of the culvert. He reported that the water being discharged into Hole Bottom Beck from a drain running from the tunnel was thick with suspended solids, although its volume was smaller than on previous visits. Again, the Environment Agency was informed.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Society, said: “There’s been comparatively little rainfall this winter so the water level in the beck is quite low. We’ve therefore had concerns about the pumping operation as the amount of floodwater entering the watercourse is sometimes so great that it comes through the culvert’s stonework, rather than just out of the drain.

“We have recorded some sediment in the discharge before but, on Friday, the water was black. There was also a smell of diesel around the midpoint of the culvert - where the drain is - which we hadn’t noticed closer to the entrance.

“The current engineering works are taking place 1,500 yards into Queensbury Tunnel and the floodwater is being pumped into the watercourse within a designated confined space. Unfortunately, in these circumstances, even regulatory bodies would have difficulty gaining insight and gathering evidence about a contractor’s activities and whether they are being properly controlled.

“Whatever happened in the tunnel last week, the mitigation measures clearly proved ineffective.”

Photos and video of the pollution were posted on social media over the weekend and, on Sunday, a member of AMCO-Giffen staff was seen taking samples from Hole Bottom Beck.

In 2015, a similar operation to pump floodwater from the Halifax end of Queensbury Tunnel was halted by the Environment Agency after Strines Beck was polluted by a discharge thick with silt.

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To link to videos of the pollution or embed them on your website:
(Diesel pollution) https://youtu.be/kQpmUTkqm8k
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/kQpmUTkqm8k?rel=0" frameborder="0" allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen></iframe>

(Silt discharge) https://youtu.be/1UJGXsZcJGE
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/1UJGXsZcJGE?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 4th March 2019

'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”.

--ENDS--

To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
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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

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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.

--ENDS--

To link to a video on the tunnel campaign or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/Yij7v7lM2H4
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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.”

--ENDS--

To link to a video of archive photos showing the tunnel or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/eNlzU56knpU
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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.”

--ENDS--

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.

--ENDS--

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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Cost-cutting claim over tunnel plans

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Sunday 22 September 2019