The Peak District economy is in line for a major boost as tourists come to use four former railway tunnels which have been re-opened as part of a £2.25 million project.
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders can now use the spectacular trail in the Peak District National Park, funded by the Department for Transport.
The tunnels – shut to the public since the former Midland Railway closed in 1968 – have been cleared out, repaired, had lighting installed and been resurfaced, creating nearly 1.5 miles of extra public access by extending the existing Monsal Trail, which runs from Bakewell to the edge of Buxton.
Jim Dixon, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “By investing in the new route we increase opportunities to go cycling, walking and horse riding instead of using the car.
Some local residents will use the new route for commuting or a social ride, while for tourists it offers a safe, traffic-free environment to enjoy what is so special about a national park.”
The tunnels – called Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor - vary in length from 400 to nearly 500 metres long.
The authority’s Pedal Peak District project also encourages thousands of people to take up or do more cycling by providing cycle training, bike maintenance courses and cycling events.
The project has also provided a boost to the economy by employing a range of contractors to carry out the work.
And two privately run cycle hire businesses - Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire and Hassop Station Cycle Hire – have been set up along the Monsal Trail to take advantage of the extra cyclists expected.
The tunnels are lit by more than 120 fluorescent long-life fittings capable of 80,000 hours’ usage and with a three-hour emergency battery capacity to remain lit in case of power failure.
They are programmed via sensors to shut off at night to save power.
• The work to open the tunnels is the first phase of a longer term vision which would see a circular cycling route created to link Buxton, Matlock and Bakewell.
Planning permission and further funding would be needed to make this a reality.