CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a historic railway tunnel from closure have hit out over rising costs over works to shore up a shaft in the 1.4-mile long structure.

The Queensbury Tunnel Society (QTS), who want to see the tunnel revived as part of a new greenway between Bradford and Halifax, say the cost has risen by 25 per cent to more than £1 million and work has not yet started, even though it was meant to finish weeks ago.

The society says contractors are unable to strengthen the fourth shaft due to floodwater, which emerged after Highways England failed to pay the £50 annual rent on a pumping station, thus resulting in it being shut down.

They says plans emerged in July for the shaft, with the main phase due to finish in September.

QTS says work hasn’t started due to a ‘concept redesign’ and logistical constraints, leading to the estimated cost rising to £836,000 and the overall bill now totalling over £1 million.

QTS leader Norah McWilliam said: “Back in August, the landowner offered to restart the pumping station for a partial dewatering of the tunnel, allowing Highways England to install the same type of strengthening used at the other shafts, cutting the cost of the scheme to about £200,000.”

She says the offer has been rejected and a letter to the Department for Transport making clear a “willingness to find a way forward” ignored.

Graeme Bickerdike, Engineering Co-ordinator for QTS, said if the landowner’s offer had been accepted, the work would have been “finished weeks ago at a fraction of the cost”.

He described it as a “shambolic situation”.

A Highways England spokesperson said the work carried out benefits any future plans to re-open the tunnel, by keeping it safe now and the tunnel needs strengthening to prevent further collapse.

“Preventing an uncontrolled collapse is the best option for keeping the tunnel viable for future use,” said the spokesperson.

“We have no legal involvement with the adjacent landowners. Our remit is purely to maintain the safety and integrity of the structure.”

They said that on November 11, the Department for Transport, the owner of the tunnel deemed the offer from the landowner ‘unacceptable’ for a number of reasons including: It cannot undertake stabilising works prescribed by a third party which has no legal, safety or management responsibility for the Tunnel; that QTS/the landowner would not be able to give an unlimited indemnity to the Secretary of State in the event of a collapse owing to works they prescribed proving to be insufficient; that Highways England would need to be able to undertake the stabilising works without the threat of the pump being turned off at any moment “should their professional view not be wholly in line with landowner’s agent”.