It is an impressive feat of Victorian engineering that has stood rock solid in the heart of Bronte country for 143 years.
But now the Queensbury Tunnel is threatened by the same ‘cultural vandals’ at Highways England who have filled historic railway bridges with concrete.
The officials want to block the 1.4mile structure despite pleas from the Victorian Society and campaigners who want to turn it into Britain’s longest underground cycle path.
Norah McWillam (centre) with supporters Julie Johnson (L) and Pat Holland (R) in front of the Queensbury Tunnel, Near Bradford, West Yorkshire, which is being maintained by Highways England
A planning application has been lodged and preparatory works have already started on the tunnel, which took four years to build and cost the lives of ten workers.
Some 7,700 objections have been lodged against the controversial proposal in West Yorkshire. Bradford Council, which is considering the planning application, has not set a date for its decision.
Norah McWilliam, of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said: ‘It’s nonsensical and outrageous. They seem determined to write off structures like Queensbury Tunnel, which is an incredible piece of Victorian engineering and when there is a clear vision for its use.’
The retired lecturer, 73, added: ‘It’s very clear that Highways England and the Department for Transport have not recognised the strategic value of Queensbury Tunnel for future transport use and have managed it blindly as a liability for many years.’
The tunnel, with a maximum depth of 400ft, was opened by the Great Northern Railway in 1878 connecting Bradford, Halifax and Keighley. But the line was closed in 1956 after traffic dwindled.
So far, preparatory work for the blocking of the tunnel has included fitting a steel and concrete lining to some sections.
The Victorian Society, which campaigns to protect 19th-century architecture, claim the ‘rapidly deteriorating tunnel symbolises the irreplaceable infrastructure legacy left to us by the Victorians’.
Christopher Costelloe, one of the society’s directors, said: ‘Queensbury Tunnel could be the heart of a new transport revolution, bringing cyclists and tourists to this part of Yorkshire.
The Victorian Society, which campaigns to protect 19th-century architecture, claim the ‘rapidly deteriorating tunnel symbolises the irreplaceable infrastructure legacy left to us by the Victorians
Controversy rages over plans by Highways England – which manages disused railway structures across England, Scotland and Wales – to fill in nearly 70 old bridges with concrete and demolish 14 others. It has refused to say which bridges are under threat
‘If it is filled-in this irreplaceable asset will be lost for ever.’
Controversy rages over plans by Highways England – which manages disused railway structures across England, Scotland and Wales – to fill in nearly 70 old bridges with concrete and demolish 14 others. It has refused to say which bridges are under threat.
It said of the Queensbury Tunnel: ‘The structure is flooded, causing the tunnel lining to deteriorate at a rapid pace. It needs to be strengthened and preventing an uncontrolled collapse is the best option for keeping this tunnel feasible.’
However, peers have previously called the infilling and demolition programme ‘cultural vandalism’.
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