Former railway tunnels are ready to reopen to walkers, cyclists and horse riders after more then 40 years.
The Peak District National Park Authority has carried out the £2.25m Pedal Peak District project, funded by the Department for Transport, to four tunnels on the Monsal Trail.
As part of the project the former railway tunnels – shut to the public since the former Midland Railway closed in 1968 – have been cleared out, repaired, had lighting installed and been resurfaced.
This has created nearly 1.5 miles of extra public access by extending the existing trail, which runs from Bakewell to the edge of Buxton.
Work to reopen the tunnels started in December 2009. They will be officially opened on Wednesday May 25 by transport minister Norman Baker MP.
Jim Dixon, chief executive of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “This has been a huge engineering project and is generating a lot of interest and excitement among local residents and visitors.
“Through this project we are opening up the important limestone landscape of the Wye Valley with all its industrial and environmental heritage so that more people can come, experience and learn about it.
“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 four tunnels being reopened – called Headstone, Cressbrook, Litton and Chee Tor – vary in length from 400 to nearly 500 metres long. They have been resurfaced using environmentally friendly materials and had long life light fittings installed.
In addition to working on the tunnels the authority’s Pedal Peak District project has encouraged thousands of people to take up or do more cycling by providing cycle training, bike maintenance courses and cycling events.
The project also provided a welcome boost to the economy and local communities 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 to be attracted by the opening of the tunnels.
Interpretation panels and audio listening posts providing information about the trail, the tunnels and the route’s former history as the Midland Railway have been installed at various points along the Monsal Trail. Improvements have also been made to access points and direction signs put up.
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.