Peak District park authority sets out opposition to reinstated rail line on Monsal Trail route

The Peak District National Park Authority has issued a new response to groups proposing the restoration of a railway line from Derby to Manchester along the hugely popular Monsal Trail.

Organisations including Manchester & East Midlands Rail Action Partnership (MEMRAP) have developed proposals to reinstate the former Midland Mainline.

Rebranded as the ‘Peaks and Dales Railway’, the line would cross the Peak District via Matlock, Rowsley, Bakewell and Millers Dale, and MEMRAP has been campaigning to build support for the idea and tie it to the Government’s ‘levelling up’ tagline.

However, the plans have proved controversial, not least because the route of the line is now used by hundreds of thousands of walkers and cyclists each year.

Chee Tor tunnel on was previously part of the railway route which is now the Monsal Trail.

Last week, a spokesman for the Peak District National Park Authority said: “The authority is totally committed to a low-carbon and sustainable future for travel and access for all to the national park.

“However, we do not accept that the reinstatement of the railway on the route of the Monsal Trail is part of the solution.”

In an effort to explain its position, the authority has outlined two tests which any proposed line would have to meet in order to outweigh the significant benefits of protecting the route for leisure use, landscape character and biodiversity.

The first test is whether the line would meet identifiable strategic needs in the national interest.

This is important because of the principle of considering major development in the national park and the specific impact on the Natural Zone, which has the highest level of protection in the park, characterised as the wilder parts of the landscape.

The second test concerns impact, and whether an equally convenient and acceptable provision of the Monsal Trail could be provided elsewhere that is of a similar quality and without having an unacceptable impact on the landscape and environment.

The park spokesman said: “The authority has worked with MEMRAP to understand if their current proposal can pass these tests, however to date we have not received anything to indicate the tests can, or have, been overcome by their work.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together.” – Andrew Wakefield, editor.