To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Sugg on 22 January (HL4463), whether Highways England still plan to begin abandonment works this summer, or whether they will wait until the results of the assessment of the future of the Queensbury Tunnel by the firm of consultant chartered surveyors appointed by the Department for Transport have been received and assessed; and whether Highways England have reported any issues at this stage which require action in the short term on the grounds of public safety.
Highways England manage over 3,500 former railway structures on behalf of the Department for Transport. Based upon their knowledge of the condition of each of these structures from annual inspections, Queensbury Tunnel has received the highest risk ranking of all of these structures since Highways England took over such responsibilities in September 2013. The concerns of Highways England about the condition of the Queensbury Tunnel have only increased as there have been two known partial collapses of the tunnel linings since that date. Those two partial collapses have occurred over the past four years and reflect an accelerated worsening condition of the tunnel as time progresses.
Highways England advise that there can be no certainty about when the next collapse of the tunnel will take place or where and in their professional view there is a clear and present risk to safety should a further collapse cause a structural failure of one of these ventilation shafts and potential consequent undermining. Highways England advise that risk must now be addressed.
In view of this Highways England have asked that they be authorised and funded to commence abandonment works in September 2018 and have completed their due diligence on the matter; they have suggested that they will shortly submit a planning application to undertake the works. The actions by Highways England are related wholly to public safety and are without prejudice to any further discussions in respect of surveys and considerations about the tunnel’s future involving the Department for Transport, the City of Bradford and other interested parties.
Pending any commencement of safety works by Highways England the Department for Transport will continue to discuss a possible transfer to the local authority.