A newspaper report that said that plans to create what would be the longest cycling tunnel in Europe have been greenlit was premature, according to the group that has been campaigning to have the Rhondda Tunnel in Wales reopened for use by cyclists.
The Telegraph reported on New Year’s Eve that government ministers had given the go-ahead for the 3,148-metre tunnel to be reopened as a cycle route. Rhondda Tunnel in South Wales was completed in 1890 but then closed in 1970 on safety grounds.
However, following the publication of the report, the Rhondda Tunnel Society, a charity that has been campaigning for the tunnel to be repurposed as a cycleway, clarified the situation in a tweet.
It said: “Great publicity but no NEW news, unfortunately. We still can’t move forward and apply for the funding we need to bring this project to fruition until the Welsh Gov or Local Authorities are in a position to take ownership from Central Gov. We’ll see what 2022 brings. Happy New Year.”
The tunnel, along with other disused railway infrastructure around Great Britain, is the responsibility of Highways England, which manages the Historical Railways Estate on behalf of the Department for Transport (DfT).
HRE Group, an alliance of engineers, cycling campaigners and greenways developers, is campaigning for abandoned infrastructure such as bridges and tunnels to be saved rather than infilled or demolished, also weighed in on the issue, highlighting that transfer of ownership of Rhondda Tunnel was not an obstacle, but a lack of funds for restoration was a problem.
However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was quoted by the Telegraph as saying: “I would be happy to transfer it to a local group, the Welsh Government or the local council, with money for the purpose.”
Labour MP for Rhondda, Chris Bryant, said that if the tunnel was reopened as a cycle path, it would be the longest in Europe, which could prove to be a major local attraction, boosting tourism and jobs in an area of outstanding beauty that also suffers from financial deprivation.
Campaigners in West Yorkshire are having a similar fight to get another historic railway tunnel reopened that would link Bradford and Halifax.
Norah McWilliam, of the Queensbury Tunnel Society, commented on the Rhondda Tunnel coverage, saying she was ‘really pleased’ for the group, adding that people from each group have visited each other’s tunnels.
She added that the mile-and-a-half long Queensbury Tunnel needs serious work, particularly near the middle, but it had incredible potential as a green route that would benefit two urban centres and provide opportunities for local businesses.
“The tunnel would be an amazing feature on Bradford’s landscape and it would be nice feature away from all of Queensbury’s horrible traffic,” Norah said.
“We need to make use of features likes these. As a greenway, it would be a great opportunity for families to explore local landscapes. It’s really exciting.”
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