A REPORT has been published into the short-term risks of a disused railway tunnel under Queensbury, following claims that its condition presents a threat to the local community.

The 1.4-mile long Victorian structure, linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, is the focus of a campaign to reopen it as part of a cycle network, but Highways England’s Historical Railways Estate (HRE), which looks after the tunnel for the Department for Transport (DfT), is looking to abandon it as part of a £3.2 million project starting in September.

Highways England has said previously said that due to the "deteriorating" poor condition of the tunnel, action needs to be taken and that it is a priority to close it "on the grounds of public safety".

The Queensbury Tunnel Society says Highways England was unable to provide evidence to support this claim when challenged by Queensbury ward councillors.

The report, produced by the society, says the condition of the tunnel is "generally stable" and partial collapses have not structurally changed in the four years since the most recent ones.

It also says there are no recorded defects close to the shafts and no signs of deformation or distress to their support structures.

The society says HRE inspection reports identify the shafts as being in "fair condition".

Graeme Bickerdike, engineering co-ordinator for the Queensbury Tunnel Society, said that HRE suggest an urgency and threat level that are "simply not sustainable".

He said: "The risks do not ‘grow daily’ in any meaningful sense and the idea of an ‘unravelling’ is difficult to sustain as each collapse is a discrete event caused by unique local conditions. But most importantly, the shafts are in fair condition; the tunnel lining beneath them isn’t squatting and there are no cracks or compression failures as would be the case if the arch was subject to excessive loads.

“In our opinion, Queensbury Tunnel currently presents little short-term risk to the community, as has been the case for several decades.”

Norah McWilliam, leader of the society added: “We’re pleased that our engineering team has been able to put some of HRE’s claims into context, looking at the defects in the tunnel and how they might develop."

The Society has sent a copy of the report to Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, asking that he seek “some evidence from HRE to demonstrate a realistic short-term need to put a potentially useful structure permanently beyond use... if it is unable to provide that evidence, we would respectfully ask again that you pause the abandonment process".

Members of the society joined representatives from charity Sustrans and Calderdale Council at a meeting with Bradford Council officials to discuss how a future for the tunnel might be secured.

A spokesperson for Highways England said: “Safety is at the heart of everything that Highways England does. Unfortunately the condition of the tunnel has severely deteriorated since it was closed.

“Of the 3,200 former railway structures which we have looked after since September 2013, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport, this tunnel represents the highest risk to public safety.

"Due to the poor and worsening condition of the tunnel it is a priority to permanently close the tunnel on the grounds of public safety, subject to securing planning permission."