Petition to restore rail links between Derbyshire and Manchester reaches almost 20,000 signatures
Nearly 20,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to back the return of rail services between Matlock, Bakewell, Buxton and Manchester.
The Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP) is campaigning for the reintroduction of the Peaks and Dales Railway, with the aim of boosting connectivity between the East Midlands and the North West. The line would link Nottingham, Leicester and Derby with the North West, and provide rail links for Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton into Manchester.
Stephen Chaytow, CEO of MEMRAP, said that while the process would not be without its challenges, the group’s members are positive about the chances of the railway being restored.
“It is entirely possible it could happen despite the challenges we face - it’s quite exciting.
“We’re dealing with the key issues that face us, and we’ll find ways around the roadblocks. We’ve had a fair bit of supportive feedback from stakeholders, new and old, who want to see this campaign progress.”
Mr Chaytow said one of the major issues concerning the return of the railway is the fate of the Monsal Trail.
“The replacement Monsal Trail is the first question everyone asks about. There are people who live adjacent to the trail, and their lives are going to be disturbed by the return of a railway, but the implications are significant for Derbyshire and the East Midlands as a whole.
“This project has a catchment of seven million people, if you go along the line from Leicester and back up to Manchester- that’s the number of people whose lives could be touched and even changed.
“Unfortunately, without creating great disruption within the park, the railway will have to go on the trail- that is the alignment of the railway. The replacement trail will be in a different place, but people will not be short-changed, it will be something of equivalent or superior standing to the existing trail.”
MEMRAP has researched the potential for a net gain in terms of biodiversity when the project is completed, and has also produced a carbon model to set out a possible route to net zero emissions. Mr Chaytow said that the return of rail links would help the Peak District reach net zero by drastically reducing traffic in the park.
“One of the things that everybody complains about, including the chair of the National Park, is congestion. With over 90% of visitors arriving by car, it’s unsustainable, it's congested and it’s inappropriate.
“With the return of the Peaks and Dales line, we project that you could see visitor traffic reductions of between 40% and 50%.”
Mr Chaytow said that, while he hopes to see the line restored in his lifetime, it is young people who will gain the most if this campaign is successful.
“This is a project about young people and their interests, because the benefits from the work that we’re trying to do now are for the generations that follow.
“It would be great to see the line restored in my lifetime, and it could be done in 10 years, once we have the local leadership and appetite to actually drive it forward and make it happen.”
The petition to reinstate the Peaks and Dales line can be found here.