Lighting ruled out at disused former railway tunnel in Kelmarsh

Councillors have ruled out making improvements to the cycling route at Kelmarsh Tunnel as it would be ‘unwise and premature’ due to the potential reopening of a railway line.

By James Averill
Saturday, 29th February 2020, 3:49 pm
Updated Saturday, 29th February 2020, 3:50 pm
Councillors explored whether to fund improvements to Kelmarsh Tunnel
Councillors explored whether to fund improvements to Kelmarsh Tunnel

Daventry District Council had been considering setting aside £50,000 to spend on feasibility studies to see whether the 480-metre long tunnel would benefit from lighting to improve the experience for cyclists, which it currently called ‘unnerving’.

But the scheme has been pulled after the council’s strategy group voted against the proposals, which was then backed up by a vote at full council last week (February 20).

The former railway tunnel – which operated between 1859 and 1981 – now forms part of Brampton Valley Way (BVW), a linear country park which connects the edge of Northampton with Market Harborough. A second tunnel at Great Oxendon also formed part of the railway line in the opposite direction, but is not part of BVW.

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The feasibility work would have included an ecological survey – as bats use the tunnel – and work to identify a lighting system that would be ‘affordable to install’ and have ‘minimal’ operation costs. Should it have proved successful, then a similar scheme would have been drawn up for the tunnel at Great Oxendon.

But during a meeting on January 9, the district council’s strategy group voted against spending the £50,000 on feasibility studies.

According to minutes of the meeting, former council leader Councillor Chris Millar considered that as it had been mooted as a possibility that the transport link between Northampton and Market Harborough could be opened along the route, that funding for the study should not be provided.

Councillor Adam Brown, the current deputy leader of the council, added that the potential re-opening of the route was referred to in strategic planning documents and agreed that ‘in the interests of fiscal conservatism it would be unwise and premature’ to go ahead with the project.

Labour councillors on the strategy group also agreed to scrap the scheme, with opposition leader Councillor Wendy Randall considering that there were ‘other projects which were of a higher priority’, and Councillor Ken Ritchie saying it would be ‘a shame’ to put lights in the tunnel as children ‘liked that fact that it was mysterious’. He also raised concerns over the costings.

The strategy group ended up going against officer advice and recommending to the full council that no funding be provided for the feasibility study in the 2020/21 budget. Full council took up that advice and voted not to set aside any funds to carry out the project.