A GOVERNMENT minister praised a group of community volunteers who have led a campaign to re-open the village's abandoned rail tunnel as a mile and a half long cycleway.

Under Secretary of State for Transport Robert Goodwill visited the Queensbury tunnel yesterday and was told of the ambitious plans. Although he agreed it was a good idea, he said the Victorian tunnel's future was dependent on an imminent survey on its condition.

Mr Goodwill was invited to view the tunnel by the Queensbury Community Heritage Action Partnership, a group that has been pushing for the long derelict tunnel to become the longest underground cycle way in Europe.

It hopes to create a cycle trail linking Halifax with Bradford and Cullingworth.

The Highways Agency is responsible for the tunnel and this summer will carry out a survey on its condition. Q-CHAP hopes the agency will use the money budgeted for the tunnel to improve and re-open it, rather than concreting it in.

Cycling group Sustrans have already backed the plans. A similar tunnel opened in Bath last year.

The visit was also attended by representatives of Bradford Council and Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome To Yorkshire.

After visiting the tunnel the group was taken to Black Dyke Mills, where Q-Chap hopes to open a heritage centre as part of a wider re-generation of the building.

During a presentation by Norah McWilliam, leader of the community group, Mr Goodwill was told of hopes to hold a "Queensbury Triathlon" in the tunnel in 2018 - the 140th anniversary of the tunnel opening.

After the visit Mr Goodwill said: "The Highways Agency has a responsibility to keep the tunnel in a condition that doesn't cause problems for the people living above it. We need to find out how much it will cost to not just keep the tunnel safe but also to make it accessible to cyclists.

"It is in an important location to join up other networks. A lot of the area round here has steep inclines that might appeal to the Lycra clad riders, but this would offer a accessible, flat route for families to cycle on without the fear of traffic.

"We need to know what the price tag will be. I presume that eventually Bradford Council will be taking over running the tunnel, and they won't want to do that unless they can be sure they are not going to have to spend millions on it in the first few years."

He said that whatever the result of the survey, he had been impressed by Q-CHAP, adding: "Determined groups of local people are the best campaigners for this type of thing, you know they are doing it for all the right reasons."

Councillor Val Slater, the Council's portfolio holder for planning and transport, said: "Until we know the result of the survey it is very difficult to make any comment on this, but it is something we will be following up on."