The Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) failure to pay a £50 annual rent fee has led to “hundreds of thousands of pounds” in legal costs and delayed the start of a £3.6M tunnel project, a conservation group has claimed.
The 2.3km long Queensbury Tunnel between Bradford and Halifax in Yorkshire has been flooded after a pump was turned off following a dispute over rent with the landowner.
The landowner claims that it has not been paid for two years and consequently switched off the pump which protected the tunnel from flooding. The pump is located on the landowner’s property.
Conservation group the Queensbury Tunnel Society said that because of the flooding, work to carry out £3.6M of abandonment works to seal up the tunnel at either end have been delayed.
The disused brick arched Victorian railway tunnel was opened in 1878, but closed in 1956 and its tracks removed in 1963. It is managed by Highways England Historical Railways Estate (HRE) but the water discharge pipes and control equipment are located on land covered by a 10 year lease held by the DfT.
The Queensbury Tunnel Society said the flooding cut off access to the tunnel at the south end, with water extending around 320m into the tunnel.
Queensbury Tunnel Society leader Norah McWilliam said: “The lease came at a cost of several hundred thousand pounds in legal action and was vital to Highways England to deliver its questionable £3.6M abandonment scheme.
“The profound consequences of the £50 rent being overlooked are now becoming clear.”
It said it now understands that Highways England is looking at options to pump the water to the north end of the tunnel. This it said, would be dangerous as it would have to be taken through a 300m long exclusion zone where two partial collapses of the lining obstruct the passageway.
The Queensbury Tunnel Society wants the plans to be abandoned, instead sayingthe tunnel should be repaired and opened to the public as a cycleway forming the centrepiece of a network connecting Halifax to Bradford and Keighley, similar to the Rhondda tunnel in Wales.
Changing the Yorkshire tunnel would bring £37.6M in social and economic benefits over 30 years, according to a Sustrans study. The conservationists said Bradford Council is now arranging a programme of structural investigations to establish the tunnel’s precise condition and repair cost.
The DfT has been contacted for a comment.
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