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National transport group offer support for Matlock to Buxton rail line

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A national public transport organisation is to hold an event in Matlock later this month to show its support for efforts to re-establish rail services on the line towards Buxton.

The English Regional Transport Association (ERTA) is backing the initiative led by heritage rail operator Peak Rail to extend the Matlock to Rowsley line as far as Peak Forest — but are also calling for a more ambitious end goal.

Spokesman Richard Pill said: “We want the route to be protected, studied as to its merits and the case to be made for a full reopening of this strategic rail corridor for the benefit of the wider public, lifestyle choices, commuting, traffic congestion reduction and saving land.

“Population has grown, traffic exceeds parking and we need the environmental benefits rail has to offer.”

Peak Rail and a consortium of quarrying firms are investigating options to revive the line primarily for freight use so they can ease network congestion around the Hope Valley.

Peak Rail revealed in March that it would be inviting tenders for a feasibility study on the Rowsley to Peak Forest connection, but also that potential costs meant there was no imminent prospect of a full passenger service.

However, an online petition to reintroduce a full passenger service to Buxton has received more than 12,000 signatures, and now has the association’s support too.

This week, project director Paul Tomlinson said: “It is a long-term aspiration and always has been. Our first ambition is to get the heritage side of the operation running, but the introduction of a daily community service is on our agenda.

“It would have to be considered carefully and incrementally. The freight operation would pay for the line to be rebuilt, but clearly that opens up other possibilities.”

He added: “We are having to do an awful lot of research before going out to tender, but the feedback we have had, particularly from people living near Buxton has been very positive.”

With the ERTA now offering support for the project, Richard said: “We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, but we support rail reopenings wherever possible for the benefit of the community.

“Translating the interest in this project into the next steps of action is something we have done elsewhere, and would like to help any efforts in Derbyshire.”

The ERTA is a voluntary organisation with members across the country, but has been particularly active in projects around Bedfordshire and the proposed revival of the Oxford-Cambridge line.

Richard said: “Lots of people want to voice their support, but getting things moving on the ground involves time and effort. We would like to help develop that cooperation however we can.

“We think there would be quite a lot of interest in getting more footfall and spending to flow between the two towns and Derby and Manchester.”

The association is planning to host a community forum on Saturday, June 30, at the The Crown pub in Crown Square, Matlock.

The event will begin with a social lunch from 1pm-2pm, before more formal discussions from 2pm-4pm.

For more details about the event, contact Simon Barber on 020 89404399 or write to simon4barber@gmail.com.