These 'lost' stations on historic Chesterfield to Sheffield railway could reopen as campaign gathers momentum

Despite its proud place in railway history, Barrow Hill has not seen a regular passenger train for more than 65 years.

Wednesday, 16th September 2020, 7:00 am

Its iconic roundhouse attracts thousands of rail enthusiasts and some of the country’s most famous locomotives – but the nearby station lies silent apart from the occasional passing freight train.

Now, however, a campaign is underway to examine the feasibility of reopening Barrow Hill station, as well as other forgotten stations on the same historic route through north Derbyshire.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley at Chesterfield railway station.

The line was known among railway workers as ‘The Old Line’ and connected Chesterfield and Sheffield via New Whittington, Barrow Hill/Staveley and Eckington.

The area’s MP, Conservative Lee Rowley, believes all these places could see stations reopened, and hopes they will help transform the whole area.

As part of the national ‘Restoring Your Railway’ initiative, the North East Derbyshire idea is one of just 10 in the whole country to get through the first round of bidding.

As a result, it has won funding for a project to investigate the feasibility in more detail – something which is now underway.

Spanish rail company Talgo gifted one of its high-tech carriages to Barrow Hill Roundhouse earlier this year.

Mr Rowley, who has been holding virtual meetings in all the areas involved, said: “The reopening of stations in Eckington, Killamarsh, New Whittington and Staveley could be transformative and fits with our ambitions to level up North East Derbyshire.

“To make our proposals as strong as possible we want to utilise the local knowledge and perspectives that only residents can offer. We are also really keen to generate local support for the project and show the Government that our local communities are behind it when we make the case for further funding.”

The Restoring Your Railway initiative invites MPs, local councils and community groups to propose how they could use funding to reinstate axed local services and restore closed stations which have not seen passenger trains since the Beeching report.

This route is the original North Midland Railway line of 1840 between Chesterfield and Rotherham – which predates the present main line from Chesterfield to Sheffield by 30 years.

Steam locos on display at Barrow Hill Roundhouse.

Philip Riden, chairman of Chesterfield Civic Society, said the idea to reopen the line to regular passenger services was ‘one of the most promising ideas’ of its type and should be affordable.

He said: “The older line closed to passengers just after the Second World War and the stations were demolished, but the line continues to be maintained to passenger standards as an avoiding line if the main line is blocked, and a handful of passenger trains use it each week to maintain drivers' route knowledge (otherwise it could not be used in an emergency).

"This means that the track and signalling should not need a great deal of upgrading to reopen it to stopping passenger trains.

Barrow Hill Roundhouse has become famous for its Rail Ale events.

"That only leaves new stations to be built, which it should be possible to do a great deal more cheaply than Network Rail have done elsewhere.”

Mr Riden said he could see few reasons to object to the reopening.

“I don't think there is any doubt that the communities which got new stations on the Chesterfield to Sheffield line would benefit,” he added.

"It is an area where a lot of new housing has been built in recent years but remains very deprived.

"If it became possible, or easier, to commute to Sheffield by public transport that should help considerably.

"It would also be possible to run at least one train a day in each direction to and from London to save people having to get into Chesterfield or Sheffield, and possibly some to other long distance destinations.

"I can't see what there is against the idea: there is no new building involved which might be objected to by the neighbours, apart from three or four small stations; all the other infrastructure is in place; and the area looks very different compared with 70 years ago when local services were withdrawn and it was assumed everyone would get the bus or eventually own a car.”

Community leaders in Staveley said the idea would also boost wider plans already underway to regenerate the town and bring more footfall to the area’s shops and businesses.

Coun Mick Bagshaw, Chesterfield Borough Council member for Hollingwood,Inkersall & Duckmanton, said: “The possibility of a reopened railway station in Barrow Hill/Staveley is fantastic news and will compliment our plans to move Staveley forward.”

North East Derbyshire District Council said it was ‘fully behind’ the idea to reopen railway stations in the area.

Councillor Carolyn Renwick, cabinet member for economic growth said: “We recognise the great benefits for employment with direct lines to the City of Sheffield and Chesterfield town centre from Eckington, Renishaw and Killamarsh.

“By reopening these railway stations it will have great transport and climate change benefits by allowing people to commute easily across the district and to neighbouring towns and cities, reducing the need for cars and reducing carbon emissions.

“The project itself to re-instate the stations will bring great opportunities to our residents for job opportunities in the construction phase and long term significant capital investment brought into the area,” she added.

The proposal is being developed with the help of Sheffield City Region and support from North East Derbyshire District Council, Chesterfield Borough Council, Derbyshire County Council and others.

You can have your say on the plans by visiting North East Derbyshire MP Lee Rowley’s website and taking part in surveys about the stations involved.

Thank you to all who support local journalism with a print subscription. The events of 2020 mean trusted, local journalism is more reliant than ever on your support. We couldn't do it without you. Please subscribe here so we can keep campaigning on your behalf. Stay safe.