A new company has been launched to drive forward the bold vision of reopening the railway line between Buxton and Matlock.
The group of Derbyshire organisations and individuals have come together to form the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP), with the aim of reinstating the line between Blackwell and Rowsley for use by passengers, heritage trains and freight traffic.
Chairman Robin Greenwood said: “We are working with several interested bodies who believe the line can and should be re-opened.
“In 2004 Derbyshire County Council and the Peak Park did a report that said the line would not be viable until the number of passengers on the current lines increased. The current lines are at saturation point, we are crying out for another line.
“People in Buxton look north to Manchester and people in Matlock look south but it doesn’t have to be like this. We want to open up this part of the country.”
Funding for the project, according to Mr Greenwood, would come from working in partnership with local quarries which are supplying materials for the new Heathrow Airport runway and are involved with the HS2 project.
Director Mike Rose said: “This is the missing link in the local rail network. The line’s closure in 1968 meant the loss of a valuable asset to the community.
“Re-opening the line will provide real benefit to local people and visitors, with improved transport between towns and villages, better connectivity and much better access to the national park from north and south and the opportunity to combine cycling or walking with a rail trip for a more enjoyable day out.”
Mr Greenwood said one issue to overcome would be finding a replacement route for the Monsal Trail, along which the railway line used to run.
He said: “We would look to move the Monsal Trail to somewhere equally or if not more beautiful than it already is.
“I really hope this project comes off as it will be the biggest structural engineering project the county has seen in decades.”
Director John Harpur added: “This is also a fantastic opportunity to significantly reduce carbon emissions. As well as the inherent benefits of rail versus road travel, we are looking at innovative solutions such as battery powered or hydrogen powered trains.”
‘We cannot support this new idea’
Peak Rail has long campaigned to re-open the line for heritage trains to run between Buxton and Matlock. However, director Paul Tomlinson said he was not in favour of the new plans.
He said: “I’m all in favour raising the profile of the line to get it re-opened but we can’t support this new idea.
“The ideas of MEMRAP does not sit comfortably with what we are trying to achieve; in fact it is counter-intuitive.
“We have put in a tremendous effort over the past few years to try and re-open the line and have also been in talks with businesses to do this in a way that we think will work.
“The intention to put high speed trains through the Peak District would mean no-one would take in the beauty of their surroundings which would be wrong.”