An Olympic champion has backed calls for Highways England to reconsider a decision to close a 2.2km Victorian tunnel.
Campaigners including cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman and local politicians hope to restore Queensbury Tunnel as part of a cycle network linking Bradford and Keighley to Halifax using some of a £101M fund to develop connections between city centres.
Highways England Historical Railway Estate has plans to close the structure at a cost of about £3.2M.
Former Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity, who helped bring the Tour de France to the UK wrote in a supporting letter to Jesse Norman MP: “Building on the legacy of the Tour de France, there is an opportunity to create a landmark resource serving future generations.
“Improving connectivity, helping to meet our health and environmental obligations, attracting tourists, hosting events, revitalising local communities and giving new life to a remarkable engineering feat.”
The tunnel was built by the Great Northern Railway between 1874 and 1878 as part of the Halifax, Thornton and Keighley Railway.
Queensbury Tunnel Society leader Norah McWilliam said: “We’re delighted that so many people in positions of influence responded so quickly to our call for support. It clearly demonstrates there is no appetite for large amounts of public money to be wasted on an abandonment scheme when taxpayers can get a return on their investment by repurposing the tunnel for future generations.
“It’s clear that the condition of Queensbury Tunnel presents no short-term threat to the people of Queensbury - contrary to the claims last week from Highways England - so those trying hard to secure a positive outcome should be allowed the time they need to undertake a full and thorough assessment of the cycle network proposal.”
An online petition has been signed by more than 9,200 supporters.
Highways England has been contacted for comment.