National campaign calls for reopening of Matlock to Buxton rail line

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A national campaign group has called for the reopening of the Matlock to Buxton rail line – but those working locally to make it happen say that plan is unlikely to see the light of day.

The project is one of 33 cited by the Campaign for Better Transport in a new report on how expanding the rail network could create an additional 20million passenger journeys every year, along with thousands of new jobs.

The report describes how reopening the 12-mile track would both be viable and likely to bring social, economic and environmental benefits.

The proposal is costed at between £108million and £200m, and calls for a new station at Bakewell to bring 1,800 more people within one kilometre of a station and encourage more regular rail travel.

Campaign chief executive Darren Shirley said: “Expanding the railways would transform opportunities for people living in some of the most deprived areas of the country, giving them greater access to employment and services and providing a much needed boost to local economies.

“The government should invest in a nationally-led programme of expansion of the railway to help disadvantaged communities and tackle regional inequalities; reduce carbon emissions and air pollution; and create better and healthier places to live.”

The report also states that Peak Rail, the heritage company running the line from Matlock to Rowsley, is supportive of the idea and mentions the ongoing plan to reopen the full line for freight-only operations, backed by quarrying firms.

But Peak Rail director Paul Tomlinson, who is involved in discussions over the freight project, was quick to clarify the company’s position.

He said: “Reports like this surface from time to time, and you have to bear in mind that any government is committed to HS2 and other major projects already in the pipeline, which renders any widespread reopening programme very unlikely.

“From a Peak Rail point of view, we would actually be concerned about it because being part of the national network would hamper our ability to run a heritage service.”

A feasibility study on the freight proposal was announced last year with government support but is currently subject to commercial confidentiality.

Paul said: “We hope that progress on that will start to become more apparent as the year goes on.”

Rail cuts of the 1960s led to the closure of 5,000 miles of track nationwide, including the Buxton to Rowsley link. The Campaign for Better Transport report calls for a £4.8billion expansion to reach disconnected and disadvantaged communities.

It was produced with the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, whose general secretary Mick Cash said: “For years politicians have talked up the benefits of reopening lines but few reach construction due to a lack of a national approach and public investment.

“There is an overwhelming case for reopenings to help meet the huge economic, environmental and social challenges facing the UK, which will ultimately pay for itself via the benefits to society.”

To read the report in detail, go to https://goo.gl/GVg4od.