Published on : Tuesday, January 2, 2018
A new campaign has been started to accelerate turning a disused railway line in Yorkshire into England’s longest cycle tunnel. This is certainly a positive step as it otherwise would have closed permanently without making any fruitful use of the £3m of public money.
The 1.4 mile (2.3km) Queensbury line, which runs 377ft (115 metres) below a hill between Halifax and Keighley in West Yorkshire, was closed in 1956 as rail travel declined and private car ownership increased. According to the Department for Transport (DfT), it should be shut forever by this year by filling in critical sections with concrete in a project campaigners say will cost about £3m – the same amount they claim it would cost to patch the tunnel and turn it into a subterranean cycling route.
The tunnel is expected to be the centrepiece of a new cycle network connecting Halifax with Bradford and is hope to decrese obesity, reduce pollution and ease the traffic flow. Presently it is not a cycling route, majorly because it has brutal hills and intimidating roads. The village of Queensbury, which gives the tunnel its name, is one of the highest parishes in England, sitting at 330 metres (1,100ft) above sea level.
An environmental charity, Sustrans has produced a report suggesting the Queensbury cycle route could deliver £37.6m worth of economic, health and tourism benefits over 30 years.
In 2013, a similar project was opened in Bath where a mile long Combe Down tunnel featured an interactive light and sound installation which is now a tourist attraction in its own right.
As things stand, Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE) – which acts as custodian of the disused railway tunnel on behalf of the DfT – could begin work to seal off the tunnel this June, according to Graeme Bickerdike, who coordinates the Queensbury Tunnel Society’s engineering activities.