CAMPAIGNERS are concerned a stream could be polluted in an operation to pump flood water out of a disused railway tunnel.

The Queensbury Tunnel Society is fighting to save the 1.4-mile long structure in the hope it could form part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax, but campaigners claim Highway England's Historical Railways Estate, which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, wants to permanently close it "because of a perceived threat to public safety".

Since September, the southern half of the tunnel has been inundated by around 6.6 million gallons of water after a pumping station was switched off, say campaigners.

The society says the equipment was installed in 2016 to keep the Victorian structure dewatered, but the £50 annual rent for the land on which it is sited was not paid.

On 4th January, contractor AMCO-Giffen started to pump the water out at the Bradford end of the tunnel, discharging it via an old construction drain into Hole Bottom Beck which feeds a fish pond downstream, say campaigners.

Graeme Bickerdike, the society’s Engineering Co-ordinator, said: “When the tunnel was last dewatered in 2015, the Environment Agency intervened to stop Highways England’s contractor pumping solids and heavily-silted water into Strines Beck at the Halifax end. Equipment had to be installed to filter it before entering the watercourse.

“The floodwater in the tunnel today is still contaminated and contains a considerable amount of rubbish - cans, tyres, plastics, polystyrene, old pallets… We’ve taken samples both upstream and downstream of the discharge point; at the moment, the discolouration appears relatively minor but that could change when AMCO-Giffen starts to undertake different work activities."

Campaigners claim to have been told by an "Environment Agency source" that a permit is not in place to cover the work. The Environment Agency have not confirmed this in a statement issued in response to the claims.

Meanwhile, Highways England says the organisation and Bradford Council have not raised concerns.

A spokesperson said: “Highways England was not involved in the forfeited lease for the pumping station at the southern portal. This matter was between the landowner and the owners of the tunnel.

“Our agents and contractors have been in contact with both the Environment Agency and Bradford Council regarding the pumping of flood water through the existing drainage system at the northern portal. Currently they have raised no concerns.”

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “The Environment Agency has been in contact with the relevant parties in regard to the Queensbury Tunnel. We are offering advice and guidance to ensure all environmental rules and regulations are adhered to. Our priority is to ensure no harm is done to the environment or wildlife in the surrounding area.”