CAMPAIGNERS wanting to re-open an old railway tunnel fear for the stability of hundreds of properties if the tunnel is abandoned.

Queensbury Tunnel is the focus of a campaign to reopen it as part of a cycle network linking Keighley and Bradford to Halifax.

A spokesman for Queensbury Tunnel Society said: “Highways England’s Historical Railway Estate (HRE) intends to permanently close the tunnel at an estimated cost to the taxpayer of £3.6 million.

“But a report into coal mining risks by Jacobs, HRE’s consulting engineers, shows only short sections of the tunnel would be infilled, about 15 per cent of its length.

“The remainder would be left to collapse. For much of its length, Queensbury Tunnel is at a depth of around 110 metres. A mining convention adopted by Jacobs suggests that in the event of a collapse the void would migrate upwards by no more than 64 metres.

“However investigations into a 2016 subsidence on Tyneside found this was exceeded as a result of unrecorded mine workings and a fractured layer of sandstone.

“Queensbury Tunnel’s ‘zone of influence’ includes around 440 dwellings in a strip of land between Thornton Road to the north and Roper Lane to the south.

“Following a review of Jacobs’ report, the Coal Authority stressed there’s a potentially complex relationship between the tunnel and Queensbury’s mining legacy, which merited ‘much more detailed investigation’”.

Graeme Bickerdike, engineering co-ordinator for the society, said: “If reopening the tunnel as a cycle path proves unviable, there are two reasonable options for its future.

“HRE could undertake repairs to stabilise higher-risk areas then continue with a regime of inspection and maintenance.

“Alternatively, the section under the village could be infilled. Instead HRE intends to progress a third option – abandonment on the cheap. Lengthy sections will be left unfilled, with no access available to see what’s happening in them.”

Queensbury Councillor Andrew Senior said: “It’s not appropriate for a Government-owned company to wash its hands of the tunnel in a way that leaves uncertainty for those who live above it.

“We know from past experience that cutting corners to save money comes at a high price.”

Highways England’s spokesman responded: “The safety of the community is paramount and the Department for Transport, the owners of the tunnel, agree safety work to reduce the risk to the community around Queensbury Tunnel should be undertaken as soon as possible.

“Phase 1 of the proposed work has started and involves partial strengthening of the most vulnerable areas of the tunnel which will provide a safe working area throughout the tunnel for any future work undertaken.

“We’re working with Bradford Council on the preparation of the planning application for Phase 2 of our safety work.

“Further liaison with the Coal Authority will provide greater understanding in respect of any impact of the proposed work in Phase 2 with potential unrecorded mine workings.

“This will ensure our plans are subject to necessary scrutiny by the council’s planning and technical teams and statutory consultees.

“It’s not expected that a final decision on the application will now be reached until spring 2019.

“We understand Bradford Council is considering a potential transfer of the tunnel so it could be re-opened and used as a local sustainable transport corridor. Any such transfer could be quickly achieved.”