CAMPAIGNERS fighting to reopen a disused railway tunnel say the cost of abandoning the historic structure has soared to more than £4 million due to flooding.

The Queensbury Tunnel Society has been battling for five years for the 1.4-mile-long structure to be opened-up as part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax.

But Highways England’s Historical Railway Estate, which manages the tunnel for the Department for Transport, is seeking to permanently shut it because of public safety fears.

Preparations to strengthen parts of the tunnel lining ahead of future infill work are currently underway.

However, the society claims more than six million tons of water have poured into the structure over the past four months owing to Highways England “failings”, adding £400,000-plus to the abandonment bill.

Graeme Bickerdike, engineering co-ordinator for the society, said: “The Historical Railway Estate has lost control of this project, largely through its own failings.

“The public will receive no benefit from abandonment, but the financial burden placed on its shoulders is becoming heavier.

“Perversely, £1 million is currently being spent improving the tunnel’s condition before a further £3 million is wasted on a partial infilling scheme. It’s becoming an implausible farce.”

Highways England says partial strengthening of the most vulnerable sections of the structure has begun, which would provide a safe working area for any future work.

A spokesman added: “The safety of the community and our contractors is paramount.

“The Department for Transport, owner of the tunnel, agrees that safety work to reduce the risk to the community around Queensbury Tunnel should be undertaken as soon as possible.

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

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