A CAMPAIGN to turn a derelict railway tunnel in Queensbury into a cycleway has run into difficulties after Highways England said it could cost £35 million.

The Government department has told the group leading the project that it will instead close the tunnel up - at a cost of about £3 million - unless another public body comes forward.

Highways England, which owns the tunnel, said work on blocking it up could start next summer.

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 £3 million 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.”

Campaigner Norah McWilliam contested the Highways estimate, and said: “That was a projected figure based on an incomplete survey and building in a huge margin for contingencies. Since then a group of experienced tunnel and mining engineers have visited the tunnel and we are waiting for their report and estimate for repair costs. We expect it to considerably less that Highways England’s initial figure. In the meantime, Sustrans are prepared to undertake a study of the benefits of building a greenway to connect Bradford with Halifax via the Queensbury Tunnel. The study will consider the health benefits of encouraging cycling and walking for the population of south and west Bradford.

She added: “Our campaign group has just heard that Calderdale Council is willing to fund 25 per cent of the economic and health benefit study, so come on Bradford - it’s time to view the tunnel as a health asset for Bradford children for generations to come as well as being a magnificent piece of Bradford’s industrial heritage that will attract many visitors.”

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “We are continuing to investigate the options around the future of Queensbury Tunnel. However the tunnel is owned by Highways England and would need a considerable investment of funding to see it re-opened and maintained in the future.”

Mike Babbitt, of Sustrans, said: “Reopening the tunnel would require commitment and support from the Councils of both Bradford and Calderdale as well as raising public funds to carry out the necessary repair work and build the cycle track. An initial step to investigate the viability of this is to explore what the economic impact of reopening the tunnel to the public would be.”

EDITOR'S COMMENT: Sad that cost is likely to derail Queensbury Tunnel plans