Plans to reopen train line between Buxton and Matlock gain traction

Proposals to reinstate the railway line between Buxton and Matlock have been gaining traction with hopes a government study will take place this autumn to move the development forward.

By Lucy Ball
Friday, 24th September 2021, 3:56 pm

Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP) is a local campaign group trying to reopen the line, which was closed down in 1968.

In January 2020 Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, announced the Restoring Your Railways programme. With a £500m pot for studies and development work, MEMRAP are hoping they will be selected for the next round of feasibility studies which is due to be announced in the autumn.

Stephen Chaytow, CEO of MEMRAP, said: “We’re looking forward to passenger trains for locals and visitors alike taking cars off the roads, freight trains transporting stone from the quarries taking HGVs off the roads, and heritage trains continuing to run to a specially-enhanced timetable and to mainline standards along a key part of the route.

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Stephen Chaytow of MEMRAP on the former mainline to Derby and beyond

“So, this re opened railway really would play a full role in delivering prosperity and improving quality of life, becoming once again a vital artery across Derbyshire, as it was previously for around a century.”

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The group proposes 13 miles of double-track railway should be reinstated, and 23 miles of existing line upgraded from currently mostly single-track – just 36 miles of railway in total.

This would enable passenger, freight, heritage and excursion services to run to and from Buxton and Chinley via Bakewell and Matlock to Ambergate Junction, boosting access to jobs, education and leisure opportunities locally, and along the whole route, they say.

Millers Dale Station now

Direct Derby to Manchester services would be reinstated, allowing the connection of Manchester and Stockport with Derby, Loughborough and Leicester. Enhancement to capacity and connectivity in Derbyshire would be further improved by integrating operations with the Hope Valley line, benefiting residents of Sheffield too.

Boost for Buxton

High Peak MP Robert Largan has given his support to the project and said: “Re-instating the railway to Bakewell, Matlock and beyond could potentially be a huge boost for Buxton.

“That’s why I’m sponsoring a bid for a feasibility study, so this possibility can be properly looked at.

Weeds growing on the former Midland Railway mainline

“Of course, there are complications when it comes to the much loved Monsal Trail and I certainly wouldn’t support the trail being closed. That’s why the work that Buxton Town Team are doing to consider alternative trail provision is so important.”

Stephen said he wanted to tackle some of the concerns raised by those concerned about the loss of the Monsal Trail if the proposals go ahead.

He said: “This project is envisioned as fully integrated, by design: ‘rail plus trail’.

“This recognises the popular Monsal Trail today occupies 8.5 miles of the former railway track bed.

“It is already agreed with the Peak District National Park Authority that, in the event of a successful campaign, the railway reinstatement project would fund the reprovisioning, enhancement and extension of the Monsal Trail, complete with full integration with the railway at all the stations along the re-opened route.”

Monsal Trail

Volunteers at the Buxton Town Team are working to develop plans for the re-provisioning and expansion of the Monsal Trail.

It is a key part of their work to improve walking and cycling provision in Buxton and the surrounding area.

The intention is to link up all the railway stations on the re-opened route, and to protect and enhance the trail’s ‘local micro-economy’, as well as create links with existing trails. Overall, the plans are set to enhance the experience for cyclists and walkers, and enable users of the trails to continue to enjoy the magnificent Peak District scenery, pubs, eateries and attractions.

If the project is given the green light it would see the return of heritage services between Buxton and Matlock, realising an aim Peak Rail has had for 40 years.

The campaign has a healthy local following, with already nearly 19,000 signatories to the petition to reopen the line.

Previously the group undertook a biodiversity study with students from the University of Nottingham which looked at Nature Recovery Networks, to complement the revised trail layouts.

Now the next step for MEMRAP is to secure a study known as the Strategic Outline Business Case.

Should the campaign be awarded a study, £50,000 in funding from the Department for Transport would be matched by a further £16,000 raised by the campaign itself.

A development phase, including consultation, environmental assessment and parliamentary approval would take four to five years, with the actual reinstatement works then requiring a similar timescale.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. – Louise Cooper, editor.