News Releases

News Releases

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New study considers tunnel risks

A report has been published into the short-term risks from a disused railway tunnel under Queensbury in West Yorkshire, following claims that its condition presents a threat to the local community.

The 1.4-mile long Victorian structure, linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, is currently the focus of a campaign to reopen it as part of an ambitious cycle network, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which looks after the tunnel for the Department for Transport (DfT), intends to abandon it as part of a £3.2 million project starting in September.

Over recent weeks, conflicting views have been expressed as to whether the tunnel - which has suffered two partial collapses - could cause damage to houses built on the surface, more than 350 feet (107 metres) above. In June, Highways England suggested that “action now needs to be taken…in order to protect the community”, however it was unable to provide evidence to support this claim when challenged by Queensbury’s three local Councillors.

The report, produced by the Queensbury Tunnel Society, considers a number of statements made by HRE in email exchanges with DfT officials, in which it sets out the need to make progress with the abandonment scheme. In one, HRE says: “There is a risk, which grows daily, that one of the two known areas of collapse could unravel the tunnel lining back to one of the shafts causing a risk to properties above those shafts.” It has since described this as “the worst scenario”.

However the new report makes clear that the condition of the tunnel is “generally stable”, the partial collapses have not structurally changed in the four years since the most recent one occurred, there are no recorded defects close to the shafts and no signs of deformation or distress to their support structures. HRE inspection reports identify the shafts as being in Fair condition.
It concludes that HRE “appears to have chosen to abandon Queensbury Tunnel without first seeking to formally establish whether there is any realistic likelihood of that [worst] scenario occurring and, if so, within what timescale.”

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, says: “The tone and content of some of HRE’s emails suggest an urgency and threat level that are simply not sustainable. The risks do not ‘grow daily’ in any meaningful sense and the idea of an ‘unravelling’ is difficult to sustain as each collapse is a discrete event caused by unique local conditions. But most importantly, the shafts are in Fair condition; the tunnel lining beneath them isn’t squatting and there are no cracks or compression failures as would be the case if the arch was subject to excessive loads.

“In our opinion, Queensbury Tunnel currently presents little short-term risk to the community, as has been the case for several decades.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, says: “We’re pleased that our engineering team has been able to put some of HRE’s claims into context, looking at the defects in the tunnel and how they might develop. Their conclusion that abandonment cannot be justified by any reasonable approach to risk management is something we’ve suspected for a while; it’s more a function of fear and ignorance.

“HRE shouldn’t be making decisions or exaggerated statements without evidence to back them up. There is the potential to cause undue concern to people living above the tunnel and we share the view of local Councillors who regard these statements as irresponsible.”

The Society has sent a copy of the report to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, asking that he seek “some evidence from HRE to demonstrate a realistic short-term need to put a potentially useful structure permanently beyond use... If it is unable to provide that evidence, we would respectfully ask again that you pause the abandonment process.”

Meanwhile on Thursday (19th June), members of the Society joined representatives from Sustrans and Calderdale Council at a meeting with Bradford Council officials to discuss how a positive future for Queensbury Tunnel might be secured.

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To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY
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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 20th July 2018

No evidence to support tunnel claims

Highways England has failed to present any formal evidence to back up a recent claim about the need to “protect the community” from a disused railway tunnel under Queensbury, West Yorkshire, parts of which are in poor condition.

The 1.4-mile long Victorian structure 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 Railway Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, is proposing to permanently close it at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £3.2 million.

In June, a press statement issued by Highways England insisted that “Unless major work is carried out on Queensbury Tunnel, the level of safety risk to the community increases. Due to the deteriorating poor condition of the tunnel, action now needs to be taken… We have been clear on our decision, backed by the Department of Transport, to close the tunnel in order to protect the community and of our intention to start the safety work in September 2018…”

Despite repeated requests from Queensbury’s three Councillors, HRE has been unable to support its claim with a risk assessment or written analysis of annual condition reports. In an exchange of letters with the Councillors, an official at HRE accepted that “there are potential differences in interpretation, even by similarly qualified professionals, around the level of risk and the scale and timing of consequences”. However they went on to say, “Highways England needs to manage the situation based upon the worst scenario as we carry all liabilities.”

That “worst scenario” would involve the collapse of more than 160 yards of tunnel lining, the destabilisation of a ventilation shaft that is currently in Fair condition, its subsequent failure and the undermining of properties 360 feet above on the surface.

“Risks need to be properly evaluated before £3.2 million of public money is spent mitigating them,” says Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society. “The burden on the taxpayer becomes unbearable otherwise.

“This ‘worst scenario’ is theoretically plausible in the long term, but there is nothing about the tunnel’s condition now to suggest any impending risk of this nature. The critical factors are the shaft and the supporting section of tunnel lining beneath it: neither is showing signs of distress. And the situation elsewhere in the tunnel is generally stable.”

According to the Society, only around 20% of the structure is currently in ‘Poor’ condition and there has been no meaningful deterioration to the part under Queensbury for more than four years, since the second of two partial collapses occurred in Spring 2014.

The Society has now submitted a formal complaint to Highways England, suggesting that the press statement was “clumsy, painted an inaccurate picture of the tunnel’s condition and adopted a tone which created an unsustainable sense of urgency. This had the potential to cause undue concern to those living above the tunnel which we regard as unacceptable.”

Queensbury Councillor Andrew Senior says: “This seems to be a local version of ‘Project Fear’ - a smokescreen to justify abandoning the tunnel. HRE keeps telling us there is a risk to the community, but it’s unable to provide anything that shows the risk is real, likely or imminent.

“HRE is an accountable public body and should be able to demonstrate clear safety grounds for abandonment. If it can’t, the Council and other stakeholders must be given the time they need to fully review the opportunities and difficulties of bringing the tunnel back into use as a cycle path. That’s the only option that benefits the public. Abandonment should be the last resort, not the first choice.”

It is expected that consultants working for Bradford Council will soon begin a programme of investigations to gain a deeper understanding of Queensbury Tunnel’s condition and the likely cost of repairing it. The findings will be used to inform decision-making about the viability of transferring its ownership to the Council, without which the reopening proposal cannot go ahead.

However there is continued uncertainty about the ability to gain access to the tunnel at the south end after HRE forfeited a lease by failing to pay rent for three years, a total sum of £150. The lease was secured following four years of legal action at an estimated cost of £400,000 and allowed pumping equipment to be installed which stops the tunnel from flooding.

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To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" 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 16th July 2018

Influential voices heard in tunnel campaign

MPs, local councillors and a former Olympic champion are amongst those who have signed an open letter to the Cycling Minister asking for a temporary halt to be placed on the proposed abandonment of Queensbury Tunnel, pending the completion of a review into the challenges and benefits of its reopening.

Campaigners hope to restore the 1.4-mile long Victorian structure as part of an ambitious cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railway Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, is seeking to permanently close it at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £3.2 million.

The letter, sent to Jesse Norman MP by the Queensbury Tunnel Society, calls on the DfT to actively cooperate with Bradford Council, Calderdale Council and Sustrans to ensure the greatest possible benefit is derived from the tunnel - a public asset - and any money invested in it.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah and Holly Lynch MP, Halifax, have added their voices to that of Judith Cummins, MP for Bradford South, who recently wrote to the Transport Secretary about the tunnel. Former Conservative Party leader Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP, who contested the Bradford West seat in 1987, has also signed the letter, alongside Councillors Andrew Senior, Robert Hargreaves and Lynda Cromie from Bradford, and Councillors Dot Foster, Daniel Sutherland, Barry Collins and Lisa Lambert from Calderdale.

Former Olympic individual pursuit gold medalist Chris Boardman MBE, now Greater Manchester’s first Cycling and Walking Commissioner, also backs the call, together with Jeff McQuillan who chairs the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group.

The letter proposes that some of Highways England’s £101 million budget to develop cycle links between city centres should be allocated to the proposed route which could deliver a Benefit:Cost Ratio of around 2.5 to 1 - representing high value for money - according to a study by Sustrans.

In 2014, Sir Gary Verity helped to bring the Tour de France to the UK in his role as Welcome to Yorkshire’s Chief Executive. In a supporting letter, he says: “Building on the legacy of the Tour de France, there is an opportunity to create a landmark resource serving future generations - improving connectivity, helping to meet our health and environmental obligations, attracting tourists, hosting events, revitalising local communities and giving new life to a remarkable engineering feat.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, says: “We’re delighted that so many people in positions of influence responded so quickly to our call for support. It clearly demonstrates there is no appetite for large amounts of public money to be wasted on an abandonment scheme when taxpayers can get a return on their investment by repurposing the tunnel for future generations.”

“It’s clear that the condition of Queensbury Tunnel presents no short-term threat to the people of Queensbury - contrary to the claims last week from Highways England - so those trying hard to secure a positive outcome should be allowed the time they need to undertake a full and thorough assessment of the cycle network proposal.”

Signatories of the letter have been joined by more than 9,200 people who have so far signed an online petition (www.tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel) supporting the tunnel’s reopening.

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To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" 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 2nd July 2018

Click the icon to download the open letter

Councillors question Highways England’s language

Councillors in Queensbury, West Yorkshire, are leading a challenge to recent comments by Highways England on the threat posed by the condition of a disused railway tunnel under the village.

Campaigners hope to restore the 1.4-mile long Victorian structure as part of an ambitious cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but Highways England’s Historical Railway Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, are seeking to abandon it at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £3.2 million.

On Monday, Bradford’s Telegraph & Argus carried an article about a letter sent recently to the Transport Secretary by Bradford South MP, Judith Cummins. In it she insisted that a decision on “the future of Queensbury Tunnel must be made on the basis of robust evidence and not on a rush to find a convenient solution for the HRE.”

A spokesperson for Highways England responded by saying: “Unless major work is carried out on Queensbury Tunnel, the level of safety risk to the community increases. Due to the deteriorating poor condition of the tunnel, action now needs to be taken… We have been clear on our decision, backed by the Department of Transport, to close the tunnel in order to protect the community and of our intention to start the safety work in September 2018…”

In response, Conservative Councillors Andrew Senior and Robert Hargreaves have joined with Lynda Cromie, Independent - all of whom represent Queensbury ward - in writing to Highways England for an explanation of their comments.

“I feel that the statements made by Highways England are just an attempt to frighten the people of Queensbury, adding pressure to the argument for abandoning the tunnel,” says Mr Senior. “We need to remember that they are not proposing to fill it all in - only the two ends and very short sections below the shafts. Large areas will be left for nature to take its course.”

“There will be no access for inspections or maintenance which, in my view, increases the risks to the community. They are trying to manage the tunnel with their eyes closed and their fingers crossed. The safest thing to do would be to spend the money on repairing the tunnel, leaving it open so engineers can see what’s happening to it.”

In an email to Highways England, the Councillors ask for “clear documentary evidence” to support the recent statements due to their potential for causing concern to those who live above the tunnel, particularly near the shafts.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, says: “We know that short sections of the tunnel are in a poor condition and have been for some years. But the idea that we’re on the brink of a catastrophic failure that results in destabilisation of a shaft and the undermining of properties - which is a scenario that Highways England has actually suggested to the Department for Transport - is not plausible at this time.”

“In reality, the short-term threat to the village of Queensbury is negligible. There is no basis on safety grounds for works to start in September - not this year, next year or the one after that.”

Meanwhile, almost 9,200 people have signed an online petition (www.tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel) in support of the Society’s aspiration for reopening the tunnel.

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To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" 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 25th June 2018

Tunnel abandonment in 'chaos'

£3.2 million plans to abandon a disused railway tunnel under Queensbury in West Yorkshire have been thrown into disarray by the non-payment of £150 in rent.

Equipment to pump water from the 1.4-mile long tunnel was installed in 2016; without it, the southern entrance floods to a depth of several metres, preventing access to around half of the tunnel. The discharge pipes and control equipment are located on land covered by a ten-year lease held by the Department for Transport (DfT). However Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which manages the tunnel, has not paid the annual rent of £50 since the lease was agreed in 2014.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the landowner notified the DfT last December that the money was outstanding. Six months elapsed without reply, resulting in a notice being issued this week to HRE informing them that the lease had ended. As things stand, there is no longer any agreement allowing the pumping equipment to remain in situ which creates uncertainty over preparatory works for the abandonment scheme, intended to start in September.

In 2011, British Railways Board (Residuary), HRE’s predecessor, sought £5.2 million in damages against the landowner, money that would have been used to fund abandonment. However the action failed and the subsequent process to put the lease in place is estimated to have pushed the final legal bill to around £400,000.

For the past five years, the Queensbury Tunnel Society has been campaigning for the tunnel to be reopened as part of a cycle network connecting Bradford and Keighley to Halifax.  It believes abandonment offers no value for the public’s money, whereas the cycle network would deliver an estimated £37.6 million in social and economic benefits over 30 years, according to a Sustrans study.

In principle, Bradford Council is supportive of the cycle path scheme and has been arranging a programme of structural investigations to establish the precise condition of Queensbury Tunnel and a likely repair cost, prior to making a decision on the viability of taking on its ownership. It was feared that this process could be overtaken by the start of abandonment works, but the ending of the lease has thrown timescales into doubt.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Society, said: “It’s chaos. The Department for Transport professes its support for cycling - as it should - and is investing huge amounts of money to inspire more people to get on their bikes, with all the health and environmental benefits that would bring. Meanwhile another part of the Department is conspiring to destroy a public asset that could be transformational for local communities. And now this has happened.”

“It’s time the DfT and HRE did the right thing: put abandonment on hold while Bradford Council and other stakeholders carry out a full assessment of issues surrounding the proposed cycle network, based on robust evidence. We’ve now had two years of misleading advice, fiction and ridiculous costings from HRE. We’ve tried to engage positively with them, but they’re hell-bent on abandonment and the appalling waste of taxpayers’ money that goes with it.”

Last month, consultants acting for the Historical Railways Estate asked Bradford Council for a Screening Opinion as to whether the forthcoming planning application for abandonment needed to be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Plans were outlined to install concrete plugs under six shafts and infill about 120 metres of the tunnel at both ends; the rest of it would be allowed to collapse over time. However this was less than half the minimum distance needed to reduce the risk of ground settlement “to an acceptable level”, according to a Ground Investigation Report produced by the consultants last year. Proposals were also set out for managing long-term flood risk which relied on the existing pumping arrangements - and the lease - remaining in place.

“There are 64 pages of analysis, looking at issues such as air quality, noise, ecology, landscape and heritage,” reflects Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society. “But there is literally not one mention of ‘ground settlement’ and its possible impact, despite the presence of 70 properties on the surface within a few metres of the tunnel’s centreline. Neither is any evidence presented about historic mine workings, of which there are several close to the tunnel.”

“If HRE’s plan is to let most of the tunnel collapse, those who live above it have a right to feel confident that the risks have been properly assessed and appropriate mitigation measures put in place. We suspect that the infilled lengths simply represent what HRE can afford within its tight budget - about £3 million - but we know that another consultant has put the cost of ‘safe abandonment’ at almost three times that figure.”

“What grounds do the people of Queensbury have for confidence in HRE when it forgets to pay a £50 lease - obtained at huge expense - which is critical to implementing their plans? That’s the kind of failing you might expect of The Chuckle Brothers, but not a competent public body about to embark on the most costly and challenging project it’s ever undertaken.”

A decision on the Screening Opinion has been put back to allow the consultants more time to submit additional evidence. Meanwhile, over 9,000 people have now signed an online petition (www.tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel) supporting the tunnel’s conversion to host a cycle path.

--ENDS--

To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" 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 22th June 2018

Childhood adventurers revisit tunnel

Nowadays their antics would be condemned by officialdom, but times were very different back then. On 11th February 1960, 12-year-olds Kathleen Leonard and Trudy Baxendale joined four of their school mates to walk through the disused railway tunnel under Queensbury, West Yorkshire, almost one-and-a-half miles in length. It was an exploit that left them cold, wet and frightened, until sanctuary was found in a house close to the northern entrance. The police, their parents and a newspaper reporter then arrived.

Almost 58 years later, Kathy and Trudy (now Daveney and Bradburne) have made an emotional first return to the tunnel to recount their experience. The visit was arranged for a second collection of filmed interviews - entitled ‘Reflections’ - which the Queensbury Tunnel Society has produced in its campaign to save the Victorian structure for future use as part of a cycle path network.

There was deep snow on the ground when the six girls left school at 3:30pm and headed to the tunnel. Trudy had planned the trip and Kathleen borrowed her father’s torch, but the pair were unaware of what might lay ahead of them. “I don’t think we had any idea really, how bad it could be,” suggests Kathy. “My biggest memory is all the water coming down a big vent. We had to breathe in and go around it. I cried and they all took the mickey out of me because I wanted to go back all the time.”

Expecting the trip to last half-an-hour, it was well after 6:00pm when they finally emerged into the deep cutting close to the site of Queensbury’s former station. Darkness had fallen and the torch was no longer working. Exhausted and bedraggled, they clambered up the hillside, attracted by the lights of a house. The lady who answered the door took pity on them, offering soup and pairs of her husband’s socks. She rang Trudy’s father who informed the police that all six were safe; reunions then followed.

The story appeared in the following day’s Halifax Courier and, after the police turned up, school was buzzing with news of their escapade. “We were called to the Headmaster’s office,” recalls Trudy. “He was telling us off but he had a twinkle in his eye. He said ‘What were you thinking?’ I remember being asked that question by my parents when I got home. I didn’t know the answer then and I don’t know the answer now!”

Kathy and Trudy’s contribution will appear next Thursday - one of five videos to be published during the week on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as the Queensbury Tunnel Society’s website. They will cover broad themes - Cycling, Campaign, Engineering, Memories and Politics - with a new one being released each morning.

On Monday, Mike Babbitt, Head of Network Development at Sustrans, describes how valuable disused railway structures are in developing cycle paths, because of “the magnificent legacy Victorian engineers left us. They flattened out the hills and the valleys,” he asserts.

Wednesday’s video features Peter Harris, a highly-respected tunnel engineering specialist, who looks at the condition of Queensbury Tunnel and how it can be repaired. “Having seen other problems of a similar nature developing elsewhere - and seen how some contractors have approached solutions, safely and carefully - then I do know that it can be done.”

Andrew Senior, a Conservative Councillor in Queensbury ward, appears on Friday. His Motion in support of the campaign was recently backed by a full meeting of Bradford Council. “Once I found out that [the tunnel] was potentially going to be gone in June and will be lost forever, I just felt that I needed to stand up,” he states.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, features in Tuesday’s video. She says: “Kathy and Trudy are the real stars. It was a joy to meet them and hear their story. The memories clearly came flooding back - like it was yesterday - as we walked with them up the cutting, 58 years after they were last there. It was quite emotional for all of us.

“Distant officials see Queensbury Tunnel as a relic - a historic liability to be torn from the landscape and devoid of any value. We know that it’s embedded in our social history and could be again. Future generations must have the opportunity to enjoy adventures just like Kathy and Trudy did. We cannot allow a lack of vision to deprive them of that.”

A short trailer featuring clips from the five interviews can be viewed at youtu.be/2kA_mHo0CQ8.

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To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/2kA_mHo0CQ8
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/2kA_mHo0CQ8" 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 9th February 2018

Video series puts tunnel in the spotlight

The Queensbury Tunnel Society, which is promoting the idea of a cycle path through a disused railway tunnel to the west of Bradford, will publish a collection of filmed interviews next week with people who have connections with the Victorian structure or see its potential as part of a sustainable transport network.

Each two minutes long, the videos will cover five broad themes - Cycling, Campaign, Engineering, Memories and Politics - and form part of the Society’s ongoing efforts to convince stakeholders, including Bradford Council, that the tunnel is an asset, not a liability. A new video will be released every morning and a second series is already planned for later in February. The aim is to raise awareness of the tunnel, its plight and the potential benefits of incorporating it into a cycle network connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley.

The tunnel is currently under threat because of abandonment plans being drawn up by Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE) which looks after it on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT). This will involve infilling critical sections with concrete at a cost to the taxpayer of about £3 million. Political pressure is currently being applied to suspend those works pending the outcome of two investigations - one being progressed for Bradford Council and another from consultants appointed by the DfT.

The first video, to be published on Monday, features Councillor Dot Foster, Calderdale’s Cycling and Walking Champion. She outlines the benefits of exercise - specifically the creation of new shared paths - in the battle against obesity and mental ill-health. “If the vision of Councils in the local area is truly to improve the health and wellbeing of the local people, we’ve got to invest,” she states.

On Tuesday, Jeff McQuillan, Chair of the Great Northern Railway Trail Development Group, takes us back to the year 2000 when two railway historians met Bradford’s Lord Mayor to convince him that three disused railway viaducts should be saved and adopted for cycling. Having achieved that goal, Jeff believes that “We’ve got to link towns and cities; that’s why the idea of [links to] Bradford, Keighley and Halifax have come about in the last few years. So that is quite an ambitious project.”

Wednesday’s video sees Graeme Bickerdike, the Queensbury Tunnel Society’s engineering co-ordinator, look behind the headline repair figure of £35.4 million which the Historical Railways Estate developed for the tunnel in 2016. “They took a disproportionate approach to the engineering and some of the individual costs were over-inflated,” he asserts. “So we’ve really been confronted by the need for a two-year long damage limitation exercise.”

Harry Thompson became a locomotive fireman in the late 1940s, regularly visiting what became known as the Queensbury Lines. On Thursday, he recalls how a colleague had a mishap with a signal in Queensbury Tunnel. “He was asleep! When he passed the signal, it rang a bell and woke him up. He put his head out and, of course, he got caught on the head with it.”

Bradford West MP, Naz Shah, offers her perspective on Friday. She believes the tunnel should be celebrated and restored for people to ride through. “I think it’s pretty horrendous really - just the thought of £3 million worth of concrete in a tunnel that people dug out for the purpose of our infrastructure and support and connectivity. It would be an absolute travesty.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, says: “We’re working hard to promote our vision of the tunnel as a feat of Victorian engineering that still has a valuable role to play in the 21st century. These videos will help us, through the insight of friends who share the vision. It’s a complex story with lots of sub-plots, but we have to unravel them before it’s too late. There’s no going back if, in 20 years, we suddenly see the need for a cycle path connecting the Calder and Aire valleys. No amount of regret will shift all that concrete or the damage inflicted by time.”

A short trailer, featuring clips from the five interviews, can be viewed at youtu.be/TKdQ0YVhoKk.

--ENDS--

To link to the trailer for the ‘Reflections’ series or embed it on your webpage:
(Link) https://youtu.be/TKdQ0YVhoKk
(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/TKdQ0YVhoKk" 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 26th January 2018

Councillors voice support for tunnel path

Bradford Councillors have expressed overwhelming support for the idea of restoring the disused railway tunnel under Queensbury, West Yorkshire, to host a cycle path connecting the city to Halifax.

They voted unanimously in favour of a motion tabled by Andrew Senior who represents Queensbury ward for the Conservatives. It asks Bradford Council to engage with interested parties in exploring options for the tunnel, investigate the feasibility of taking on its ownership, facilitate discussions with the Department for Transport (DfT), Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE) and other funders, and requests an early report to the Executive setting out these actions.

Mr Senior told Councillors: “The tunnel has been earmarked for an abandonment project involving blocking it all up with concrete at a likely cost of £3 million. If the Council was to allow this to happen, it would mean this marvellous piece of Bradford heritage would be lost forever.”

Of the tunnel’s “exciting” proposed reuse, he said: “It will attract people from outside of the Bradford district to visit and, in a forward thinking way, this project will create an income back to the Council.”

Paul Cromie, Independent - a fellow Queensbury ward Councillor - also focussed on the economics. “We need to keep in mind the long-term effect the tunnel will have on the environment and the community. Sustrans estimates that, over the next 30 years, it will benefit to the tune of £37.6 million from a cycle network with the tunnel as its centrepiece. £3 will be returned for every £1 spent.”

“Queensbury Tunnel - we support in principle…it’s in line with our cycling strategy to expand key cycling networks across the district,” said Councillor Alex Ross-Shaw, Executive Member for Regeneration, Planning and Transport. “The issue is trying to work out the accurate costs. Highways England’s is many, many millions; the Queensbury Tunnel Society - who’ve done fantastic work in raising awareness of the tunnel’s potential as an asset - their figure is a lot lower.”

Mr Ross-Shaw revealed that the Council will be asking the Historical Railways Estate to extend the June deadline imposed on the Council - after which abandonment works will start - to ensure sufficient time is available to establish a robust repair cost and assess possible funding sources. HRE recently told the Society that works are on course to get underway this summer, subject to the outcome of a planning application.

Taking up this point, Councillor Alun Griffiths from the Liberal Democrat and Independent group, asserted: “It’s been there for a hundred years; it won’t hurt to hang around for a bit longer whilst a decision is made and funding is sorted. There is no urgency to fill it in. We should do everything we can as a Council - with the support of other organisations - to put a stop on the filling-in so we make some sensible decisions about what could be an absolutely brilliant asset to this community.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, responded: “What the Councillors’ support demonstrates is that this is not a party political issue. Everyone with their eyes open can see the sense in transforming our historic tunnel into a facility that will improve connectivity, benefit the environment and help in our battle against obesity, rather than pumping public money into a valueless abandonment scheme.

“We must look now to the Council’s own structural investigations to ensure they deliver success, not excess. We have said from the outset that the only sustainable repair option for the tunnel is one that’s proportionate, pragmatic and developed by engineers with deep, specialist insight. We don’t want to waste public money on ‘over-the-top’ repairs either.”

Support for the tunnel’s reuse as a cycle path continues to build. An ePetition, which seeks to suspend HRE’s abandonment plans, has gained more than 7,200 signatures, both from across the UK and abroad. It can be signed at www.tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel.

--ENDS--

To link to our latest campaign video or embed it on your webpage:

(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY

(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 17th January 2018

Political developments in tunnel campaign

The future of the disused railway tunnel under Queensbury, West Yorkshire will be debated by Bradford councillors next week as the campaign to restore it for cycling purposes enters a crucial phase.

Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which looks after the 1.4-mile long tunnel on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT), could begin works to infill key parts of the structure in the summer if a transfer of ownership to another statutory body has not been agreed. This work would render it permanently beyond use and effectively rule out any future development of a cycle network connecting Halifax with Bradford and Keighley.

A motion put forward by Conservative Councillor Andrew Senior, who represents Queensbury Ward, will be put to the vote during a meeting of the full Council on Tuesday 16th January. It welcomes the efforts of the Queensbury Tunnel Society and Sustrans to develop plans for reopening the structure and, if passed, asks Council officials to engage with stakeholders in exploring options for the tunnel. It also calls on the Chief Executive “to investigate the feasibility of Bradford Council taking ownership of the tunnel so as to secure the option of it being reopened” and for discussions about its future to be facilitated with HRE and the DfT.

Mr Senior says: “The tunnel could provide the venue for a beautiful walk or cycle ride - even in inclement weather - allowing people to keep fit. Even on the worst of days it would be better than staying indoors due to rain or wind. The tunnel could offer a unique amenity and I am confident that it would appeal to many, many people from near and afar. I hope that my colleagues across the Council Chamber will back my motion supporting utilising the tunnel and then work alongside me and anyone else who is interested to see this happen.”

Meanwhile Lord Tony Greaves, a Liberal Democrat Peer, has submitted a written Parliamentary question asking what discussions the Government is having with local authorities and interested parties with a view to completing a cycle route along the former railway between Halifax, Bradford and Keighley, via Queensbury Tunnel. He has also asked the Government to “instruct the Historical Railways Estate not to take any action which would prevent the restoration and use of Queensbury Tunnel for such a purpose until the completion of a full and proper assessment of the tunnel’s condition, economic potential, connectivity challenges and associated asset management issues.”

Lord Greaves, who was born in Bradford and is a keen recreational cyclist, says: “I’m asking the question to try to pin down the Government on this matter and to help in the process of persuading them that the creation of a cycleway that uses the tunnel is a sensible, realistic and very desirable way forward.

“I am very impressed with the commitment and professionalism of the Queensbury Tunnel Society and will do what I can to help their campaign.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the Society, says: “We are obviously delighted that Councillor Senior and Lord Greaves can see the tunnel’s potential and support our campaign to save it. Whilst we recognise it’s a structure that presents many challenges, we know they can be overcome at a sustainable cost and that investment in the tunnel will be repaid handsomely over time through social and economic benefits.

“We hope that both the local Council and central Government will work collaboratively with us to ensure those benefits are secured for future generations. It would be wasteful and short-sighted if the Historical Railways Estate was allowed to convert £3 million of public money into concrete and pour it into a black hole.”

Just before Christmas, a Council official assured the Society that “Bradford Council will do everything within its means to explore various options to keep the Queensbury Tunnel open as long as, in doing so, it would not be detrimental to the Council.”

An ePetition (tiny.cc/QueensburyTunnel) asking for HRE’s abandonment plans to be suspended has now been signed by almost 7,000 people.

--ENDS--

To link to our latest campaign video or embed it on your webpage:

(Link) https://youtu.be/c4f0M_qfvVY

(Embed) <iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/c4f0M_qfvVY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

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

Media enquiries:
media@queensburytunnel.org.uk

Click the icon to download this release as a PDF

Issued 10th January 2018

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