CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save a historic railway tunnel from closure have hit out at the rising cost of work to shore-up a shaft in the 1.4-mile-long structure.

The Queensbury Tunnel Society wants the Victorian structure to be reopened to form the centrepiece of a cycle path network connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley.

Members have been fighting moves by Highways England to fill in the tunnel.

The society says the cost of shoring-up the shaft has soared by 25 per cent to more than £1 million and work has not yet started, although it was meant to be finished by now.

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

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

Society leader Dr Norah McWilliam said: “Back in August, the landowner offered to restart the pumping station for a partial de-watering, allowing Highways England to install the same type of strengthening used at the other shafts ­– cutting the cost of the scheme.” She says the offer was rejected.

Highways England says work carried out at the site benefits any future plans to reopen the tunnel, by keeping the structure safe.

“Preventing an uncontrolled collapse is the best option for keeping the tunnel viable for future use,” said a spokesman. “Our remit is to maintain the safety and integrity of the structure.”

The spokesman added that the Department for Transport – which owns the tunnel – had deemed the landowner’s offer “unacceptable” for several reasons. Highways England said it couldn’t undertake stabilising works prescribed by a third party which had no legal responsibility for the tunnel.