A DISUSED railway tunnel in Queensbury, which a campaign group wants to re-open as a cycle path, has been designated as a Historical Engineering Work by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Queensbury Tunnel, which was engineered by Leeds-based John Fraser for the Great Northern Railway in the 1870s, has been earmarked for a cycleway – although a row over costs has been rumbling on.

Norah McWilliam, leader of the group campaigning to save the tunnel, said: “We are delighted to hear that the panel for Historical Engineering Works recognises the tunnel’s importance as a fabulous feat of engineering, even if the Historical Railways Estate is determined to put it beyond re-use.

“We ought to value this tunnel - and others like it - because of the role it could play in encouraging people to adopt more sustainable forms of transport.

“And we shouldn’t forget the sacrifices of the men who lost their lives building it, in the most appalling circumstances.

“I recognise that economics will always defeat sentimentality as far as public bodies are concerned, but the custodians of this remarkable structure have a moral responsibility to fully explore all avenues before consigning it to the history books.

“It could have a bright future, one which would repay the taxpayer’s investment by delivering social and economic benefits to the region.

“We should grasp that opportunity with both hands. We hope Bradford Council will stand alongside us in questioning why public money is being used to destroy a valuable asset like Queensbury Tunnel.”

The first freight train passed through the tunnel in October 1878 – more than four years after construction started.

When the contractors finished work on it, the tunnel was the longest on the GNR’s network at 2,501 yards.

Peter Harris, tunnels convenor on the panel for Historical Engineering Works, said: “Queensbury Tunnel is a regionally significant structure because of its history, scale and construction. It was one of the first railway tunnels to benefit from the use of a rock drilling machine which helped the miners to drive a section of heading at a rate probably four times faster than using hand drills.

“In the 1930s, one of the shafts had a series of unusual reinforced concrete frames inserted to help support a secondary lining.

“Then, after closure, the tunnel was used as a seismological station. Cambridge University installed strain meters in the central part of the tunnel and the scientists monitoring them had to sleep overnight in a hut. Not a pleasant experience.”