WORK to drain a flooded tunnel in Queensbury would be the first stage of an ambitious project to create a new underground cycleway.

Proposals to turn the disused railway tunnel into a mile and a half long cycleway date back well over a year, but plans were stalled by the fact that part of the tunnel has been flooded for several years.

Early next month Highways England, responsible for the upkeep of the tunnel, will set up a pumping station on its south side, an area called Strines Cutting, to drain water from the site.

Once the water is gone, officers will be able to access the tunnel and examine its condition ahead of emergency repairs later this year and a decision over its future. It is thought that parts of it have collapsed.

The Queensbury Community Heritage Action Partnership has ambitious plans to make the tunnel, which closed 50 years ago, into a major cycling attraction that will link Halifax with Bradford and Cullingworth. Cycling group Sustrans has already backed the plans.

Highways England has a duty to make the tunnel safe, and QCHAP has lobbied for it to do this by repairing it, rather than filling it with concrete.

Norah McWilliam, one of the founders of QCHAP, said: "This is the next step for us. Things are finally getting somewhere.

"It will be quite a dramatic site once Strines Cutting reappears after being underwater for so long."

She said that despite delays in the project, the Queensbury community was still behind the scheme.

A Highways England spokesman said: “We plan to commence work on Thursday, May 7 to set up a pumping station on land on the south side of Queensbury tunnel which will allow water to be drained from the site.

“Once it has been emptied of water we will be able to examine the condition of the tunnel lining which will inform the ongoing feasibility study. We know that a large section of the lining is in very poor condition and that parts have collapsed.

“We plan to undertake some emergency repairs this year to make the structure safe for future inspections by our contractors. At this point our contractors will be able to undertake a more through survey in respect of the tunnels potential future and the likely estimate of associated costs.

“As with all of the structures maintained by our Historical Railways Estate team on behalf of the Secretary of State, any plans to reopen one as a public asset would firstly involve transferring its responsibility to a statutory body, which would take on the structure and its future maintenance.”