Councillors blast proposals to re-open Matlock to Manchester rail line

Plans to re-open the railway line from Matlock to Manchester have been slammed as a ‘pipedream’ by councillors who unanimously voted to oppose it.

Tuesday, 23rd March 2021, 12:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 9:32 am
Matlock station

A railway connecting Derby to Manchester ran from its opening in 1867 until its closure following the Beeching Report in 1968. It ran from Derby to Matlock, then via Rowsley, Bakewell and Millers Dale to Manchester.

While the section from Derby to Matlock has remained in branch line operation as part of the national rail network, the section to the north of Matlock has not.

The section immediately north of Matlock has retained a single rail track, which form the basis of a heritage line operated by Peak Rail from Matlock to Northwood. To the north of that, within the Peak District National Park, much of the route has been converted to the very popular multi-functional, walking, and cycling route, known as the Monsal Trail which contributes toward the 13.25 million visitors per annum in the Peak District National Park

Now the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP), Peaks and Dales Railway Limited is promoting reinstatement of the former Midland Mainline railway’s missing section that once ran through the heart of Derbyshire and the Peak District.

However, the group’s ideas were dismissed at a full council meeting of Derbyshire Dales District Council on Thursday, March 18 where councillors noted and endorsed reports from the county council and the Peak District National Park Authority which raised concerns and opposed the plans in their current form.

Cllr Helen Froggatt said: “The cost has got to be astronomical. You've got three bridges to build at Rowsley, you've got to get over the hurdle of Lord Edward Manners not wanting them on Haddon land so that's the tunnel out of the equation and the reinstatement of the line to Bakewell station.”

Cllr Martin Burfoot said: "This is a non-starter, it's an ill thought out proposal. It's a pipedream really of rail enthusiasts who think they can convert a trail winding through beautiful countryside based on Victorian engineering and design and somehow supplant on top of it a modern railway which is up to 21st century standards.

"It will cost multi billions I suspect to convert and won't produce anything but a tourist railway.”

Cllr David Chapman said: “The Monsal Trail is far more attractive as it is at the moment - where people can cycle, people can walk and horse ride.”

MEMRAP say a re-opened railway would reduce car movements by 920,000 per annum.

In a statement to the council the group said :”Reinstating the Peaks and Dales Railway will reconnect communities which have been isolated for over 50 years. The local economy will benefit from the inward investment in the region.

“Town centres will be rejuvenated and Derbyshire’s foremost industry – tourism – will benefit from the increase in the number of visitors made possible by the reinstatement of the railway.”

The statement added: “The proposed reinstatement and upgrading of the Peaks and Dales Railway will provide a lasting and future-proofed legacy for Derbyshire, with the potential to deliver a game changing and replicable model for Inward Investment in Britain’s railways, post-Brexit and post COVID too – similar in concept to that which has been used on Britain’s roads, such as the M6 Toll Road.”