David Sunderland says he will block works to close disused Queensbury rail tunnel
Maya Wolfe-RobinsonLast modified on Mon 15 Jul 2019 17.09 BST
The campaign to turn a disused railway line in Yorkshire into England’s longest cycle tunnel has received a boost in the form of a defiant landowner who refuses to let it stay shut.
A row has erupted over the 1.4-mile (2.3km) Queensbury line between campaigners, supported by the local councils, and the Department for Transport (DfT), which wants to fill in sections of the tunnel with concrete and then leave it to collapse.
David Sunderland, who says he owns the land at one end of the Queensbury tunnel, will not grant access to allow any works to proceed.
Alongside nearly 3,500 other objections on Bradford council’s planning website, he wrote that he would not cooperate with any works to abandon Queensbury tunnel, describing it as “an important and valuable public asset”.
In response to the application to fill in the tunnel from Highways England, which manages the tunnel for the DfT, he says he will not grant access to the land unless the proposal for a cycle path goes ahead.
The campaigners say there is a “once-only opportunity” to turn the tunnel, disused since 1956, into a subterranean walking and cycling route connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley. It would form the heart of a new cycle network that would decrease obesity, reduce air pollution and present an alternative to car use in an area where not many people currently cycle.
They argue that the plans to abandon the tunnel are now estimated to cost at least £5m of public money, whereas the repairs are estimated to cost up to £6.9m. Sustrans, the environmental charity, has produced a report suggesting the Queensbury cycle route could bring £37.6m worth of economic, health and tourism benefits over 30 years.
Highway England’s contractor began strengthening vulnerable parts of the tunnel last year before the main phase of work, which requires planning permission. However, the cost of that work has shot up after Highways England failed to pay the £50 annual rent on a pumping station that keeps the tunnel free from water, resulting in the pump being switched off and the tunnel flooding with 8.2m gallons of water, according to Graeme Bickerdike, who coordinates the Queensbury Tunnel Society’s engineering activities.
He said: “Thanks to a combination of fear, ignorance, hysteria and occasional outbreaks of incompetence, Highways England has cost the taxpayers a huge amount of money.”
He added: “As we look at our environmental and health responsibilities, we need to facilitate people getting out of cars and on to bikes, which means providing the infrastructure for it.”
Campaign for Yorkshire cycle tunnel is backed by landowner | Life and style | The Guardian
David Sunderland says he will block works to close disused Queensbury rail tunnel Maya Wolfe-RobinsonLast modified on Mon 15 Jul 2019 17.09 BST The campaign to turn a disused railway line in Yorkshire into England’s longest cycle tunnel has received a boost in the form of a defiant landowner who refuses to let it stay… [Read More]