Light at end of tunnel in ownership search

A DISUSED railway tunnel connecting Grasscroft and Grotton is said to be in a “sorry state” after a recent inspection.

Responsibility for maintenance of the 1,332-yard structure, running under Lydgate and closed for nearly 60 years, remained unclear.But the Independent has now helped unravel the mystery. Repair work previously came under the auspices of the British Rail Property Board, now disbanded.

Network Rail confirmed the historic tunnel once used by the London and North Western Railway to connect Saddleworth with Oldham, does not fall under its jurisdiction.

In correspondence with Oldham Council, Saddleworth Parish councillor Max Woodvine believed the local authority is only responsible for a fraction of the length.

The search for tunnel ownership came to light after Cllr Woodvine highlighted concerns over incidents of anti-social behaviour at the Grotton (western) entrance.

The area has since been inspected by Greater Manchester Police’s Saddleworth and Lees officers plus a senior technician from Oldham Council. Cllr Woodvine also had a supervised inspection.
“There was not much to see but it is in a sorry state,” he confirmed.

“Land surrounding the tunnel is boggy, becoming quite overgrown and unruly so whoever is responsible for the tunnel will have trouble accessing it for maintenance works.”

A spokesperson for Network Rail said: “This tunnel is not owned by us. It was maintained by the British Railways Property Board until that was disbanded.

“Network Rail maintains and operates current infrastructure – more often than not this doesn’t include sections of railway which were mothballed many decades ago.”

Our enquiries have now established the tunnel is maintained on a regular basis by Highways England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport.

A spokesperson said: “The western end of the tunnel is owned by Oldham Council and they are responsible for the security gate at this end.

“The rest is managed by the Historical Railways Estate (part of Highways England) on behalf of the Department for Transport.

“Repairs to the brickwork inside the tunnel and at the eastern end were carried out in 2019. We carry out regular inspections of the tunnel (every three months).”

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