Drive as 143-year-old Queensbury Tunnel is threatened by Highways England ‘cultural vandals’

Tunnel division! Drive as 143-year-old Queensbury Tunnel is threatened by Highways England ‘cultural vandals’ seeking to block historic structure

  • Queensbury Tunnel under threat from ‘cultural vandals’ at Highways England
  • Campaigners aiming to make it Britain’s longest underground cycle path
  • About 7,700 objections filed against controversial proposal in West Yorkshire

It is an impressive feat of Victorian engineering that has stood rock solid in the heart of Bronteland for 143 years.

But now the Queensbury Tunnel is under threat from the same ‘cultural vandals’ at Highways England who have filled historic rail bridges with concrete.

Officials want to block the 1.4-mile structure despite pleas from the Victorian Society and campaigners to make it Britain’s longest underground cycle path.

Norah McWillam (center) with supporters Julie Johnson (L) and Pat Holland (R) in front of the Queensbury Tunnel, Near Bradford, West Yorkshire, which is maintained by Highways England

A planning application has been submitted and preparatory work on the tunnel has already started, construction of the tunnel took four years and cost the lives of ten workers.

Some 7,700 objections have been filed in West Yorkshire against the controversial proposal. 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 the Queensbury Tunnel, an incredible feat of Victorian engineering and if there is a clear vision for its use.”

The retired teacher, 73, added: ‘It is very clear that Highways England and the Department for Transport have failed to recognize the strategic value of Queensbury Tunnel for future transport use and have blindly seen it as an obligation for years.’

The tunnel, with a maximum depth of 400 feet, was opened in 1878 by the Great Northern Railway and connected Bradford, Halifax and Keighley. But the line was closed in 1956 after traffic dwindled.

So far, the preparatory work for blocking the tunnel has included the application of a steel and concrete cladding to some sections.

The Victorian Society, which campaigns to protect 19th-century architecture, claims the “rapidly deteriorating tunnel is a symbol of the irreplaceable infrastructure legacy the Victorians left us.”

Christopher Costelloe, one of the association’s directors, said: ‘Queensbury Tunnel could be at 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, claims the

The Victorian Society, which campaigns to protect 19th-century architecture, claims the “rapidly deteriorating tunnel is a symbol of the irreplaceable infrastructure legacy the Victorians left us.”

Controversy is raging over Highways England's plans - which manage disused railway structures in England, Scotland and Wales - to fill nearly 70 old bridges with concrete and demolish 14 others.  It has declined to say which bridges are under threat

Controversy is raging over Highways England’s plans – which manage disused railway structures in England, Scotland and Wales – to fill nearly 70 old bridges with concrete and demolish 14 others. It has declined to say which bridges are under threat

“If it is completed, this irreplaceable possession is lost forever.”

Controversy is raging over Highways England’s plans – which manage disused railway structures in England, Scotland and Wales – to fill nearly 70 old bridges with concrete and demolish 14 others. It has declined to say which bridges are under threat.

It was said of the Queensbury Tunnel: ‘The construction is under water, causing the tunnel lining to deteriorate rapidly. It must be reinforced and preventing an uncontrolled collapse is the best option to keep this tunnel viable.’

But peers have previously referred to the fill-and-demolition program as “cultural vandalism.”

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