A NEW study has claimed that it would be cheaper to create a new Queensbury Tunnel rather than repair the current one.
The Queensbury Tunnel Society (QTS) has published findings of research into tunnelling costs - and says it would be almost £10 million cheaper to build a new one, based on a projected cost given by Highways England.
Norah McWilliam, who leads QTS, said 89 per cent of the tunnel was in “fair” condition, and added: “Using unit costs developed for three tunnelling projects in Scotland, the study estimates that a new Queensbury Tunnel could be constructed for an upper-bound figure of £25.6 million.”
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Last year Highways England said the work to repair the tunnel to a safe standard could cost £35 million. The agency also said the cost of abandonment was about £3 million.
QTS has been campaigning to have the disused railway tunnel restored so that it could become the centrepiece of a new cycle path network connecting Bradford, Keighley and Halifax.
Graeme Bickerdike, who co-ordinated the study on behalf of QTS, said: “Right from the outset, everyone we’ve spoken to about the £35.4 million repair figure - engineers, consultants, contractors, mining specialists - have all regarded it as being ‘off the scale’.
“The work we’ve just completed has crystallised that view.
“A secondary, spray concrete lining could be installed from one end of Queensbury Tunnel to the other (2,501 yards/2,287 metres) for less than £10 million; an entirely new tunnel could be driven for about £25 million.”
Last July, a spokesman for Highways England said: “We remain open to the idea of transferring Queensbury Tunnel to another public body to maintain it. We would also look to offer the new owner the estimated £3m funding we plan to spend on closing it.
“A recent survey revealed the condition of the tunnel continues to deteriorate and our investigations found it would cost an estimated £35 million to make it safe for future use.
“We intend to begin work on closing the tunnel in the summer of 2017 if a transfer cannot be agreed by that time.”
At the time, Mrs McWilliam said campaigners were awaiting a report from their engineers, which she estimated would be considerably less.
The Society would like anyone who shares its vision for the tunnel - and the associated development of a local cyclepath network - to sign its ePetition on change.org.
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