The Anonymous Widower

Connecting The Powerhouses

This is the title of an article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, written by Colin Boocock.

It talks about a proposal to reopen the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midland Junction Railway or Peak Main Line, which formed part of the Midland Railway route from London to Manchester.

The three main objectives of the reopening are probably as follows.

  • Decrease journey times between Manchester and Derby/Nottingham
  • Provide a better route for limestone trains from around Millers Dale to Derby and the South.
  • Provide better access to the Peak District with its natural and man-made attractions

I would add better connectivity to both Manchester Airport and HS2.

From Derby To Manchester By Rail Today

There are two current routes via Stoke or Sheffield.

The route via Sheffield is the busier and decreasing journey times would be difficult, but the Stoke route is electrified from Stoke and bi-mode trains could probably do Derby to Manchester in an hour and fifteen minutes.

Reopening The Peak Main Line

The next three sections describe the current states of the three sections of the Peak Main Line, as it goes directly across the Peak District from Chinley on the Hope Valley Line to Derby.

From Derby To Matlock

This Southern section of the Peak Main Line is the Derwent Valley Line and it is served by an hourly passenger service.

From Chinley to Millers Dale

The Northern section of the Peak Main Line runs from Chinley station on the Hope Valley Line to the site of Millers Dale station, which is a few miles east of Buxton.

The main use of this section is to get stone and quarry products out of the Peak District to markets in the Midlands and the South.

The stone trains go North to the Hope Valley Line, before turning East to Sheffield and then South down the Midland Main Line.

The Missing Link From Millers Dale To Matlock

This important fourteen mile section of Peak Main Line was closed in 1968, by the non-driving Transport Minister Barbara Castle. She obviously didn’t like trains either!

The Author’s Thoughts On The Link

The track bed of the Peak Main Line is still intact and the author of the article suggests that there could be two ways of rebuilding the railway.

  • As a 75 mph single-track railway sharing the track-bed with the Monsai Trail.
  • As a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsai Trail to a more picturesque route.

Four or five, reopened or new stations could be built with passing loops to enable the minimum service frequency to be achieved, which the author suggests should be the following in both directions in every hour.

  • One fast passenger train
  • One stopping passenger train.
  • One freight train; full or empty.

But there are possible problems.

  • The A6 has to be crossed.
  • One local landowner didn’t allow consultants access to the line for an inspection.
  • Severn Trent Water are digging a large pipe into the track-bed.
  • Peak Rail have plans to extend their heritage line to Bakewell. Could both groups co-exist?

It sounds to me that everybody should find a good hostelry and thrash out a comprehensive co-operation agreement on the backs of engineering envelopes, fuelled by some excellent real ale.

A Connection To Buxton

The author says this.

A future connection over the existing railway from North of Millers Dale to Buxton would add a tourist town with 10,000 inhabitants to the market mix.

I feel Buxton may become more important in the next few years.

The Cost Of Building The Link

The author suggests that the cost of rebuilding the Peak Main Line could be between £137million and £170million, based on a consultants’ report and the cost of reinstating the Borders Railway.

Would Building The Link Be Value For Money?

The author finishes a section called Value For Money like this.

These figures suggest the Peak main line reopening may be at least as cost-effective, perhaps considerably more so, than the Borders Railway. And that ignores any benefits to the economy of the local community around that 14 miles of railway, which comprises almost 30,000 people (excluding Buxton’s 10,000).

I’ll go along with that for now!

Factors Driving The Traffic

The author suggests that three factors will drive the traffic on a rebuilt Peak Main Line.

  • General connectivity between the East Midlands and Stockport/Manchester.
  • Stone trains to the Midlands and the South.
  • A combination of local travel and tourism.

The author also suggests that the hourly service on the Derwent Valley Line linking Matlock to Derby and Nottingham is inadequate.

The Buxton Affect

I would add a fourth factor; the Class 319 Flex trains providing an improved service between Manchester and Buxton.

  • Four-car trains
  • A frequency of two trains per hour.
  • Acceptable timings, even when crush loaded.

Northern have said they are likely to run back-to-back services across Manchester using the Ordsall Chord, which would be more efficient and save platform space in Manchester.

Because Manchester to Clitheroe is another uphill slog, I would link Clitheroe and Buxton services, thus creating a commuter railway that linked two major tourism areas. Certain services would continue at the Northern end to Hellifield for the recently rebuilt, Settle and Carlisle Railway.

In Why Not Buxton To Hellifield?, I wrote about this cross-Manchester link.

Whatever Northern do between Manchester and Buxton, it will be better than at present and traffic on a reopened Peak Main Line to Matlock must feel the benefit.

Stone Traffic

This Google Map shows the area between Buxton and Millers Dale.

Note Buxton in the South-West corner of the map and all the white areas to the North-East of the town, with Millers Dale at The East of the map.

The white areas are not snow in winter, but massive limestone quarries.

The Peak Main Line passes between and around the quarries, so stone trains could take the most efficient route, to either the North or South.

In the same Edition of Modern Railways as the article, is another article about rail freight, this is said.

Aggregates traffic, negligible in 1970, is now a quarter of the total, as sand and gravel supplies in London and the South East have been exhausted  and the capital satisfies ite voracious demand for building materials from further afield.

Things have changed since 1968.

I don’t think it likely that the number of stone trains from Derbyshire to the South will decrease..

Perhaps, the big aggregate and quarrying companies would like to make a contribution to the reinstatement of the Peak Main Line.

The Derwent Valley Line

This is taken from Colin Boocock’s article.

There is already the hourly commuter service linking Matlock with Derby and Nottingham, which is buoyant at certain times of the working day, and the two car trains are busy in the tourist season. The Peak District National Park is a very popular area for walkers and tourists in general.

A picture in the article shows a single-car Class 153 train working the line. If this is typical it is totally inadequate.

From the point of view of balance on the existing line, with Buxton getting spacious four-car Class 319 Flex trains from Manchester, surely Matlock needs something bigger from Derby and Nottingham.

Given the excellent cycling and walking route between Matlock and Buxton, a four-car train should have plenty of space for bicycles and rucksacks.

Perhaps, Porterbrook could come up with a special four-car Flex tourist train, based on a Class 455 train.

With good trains at both ends of the line, the tourism potential of the route could be better assessed.

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line, gives pictures and more details on my thoughts about the Derwent Valley Line.


You may think that HS2 is irrelevant to a reopened railway across the Peak District. But when it opens HS2 will be a fast alternative route between the East Midlands and Manchester.

This document on the HS2 web site gives the following HS2 times.

  • East Midlands Hub to Birmingham  – 19 minutes
  • Birmingham to Manchester – 41 minutes.

Admittedly, these times will not be available until HS2 to the East Midlands and Manchester is fully open

But from 2032, East Midlands Hub to Birmingham will be open and a couple of years before that HS2 will reach Crewe, thus giving a Birmingham to Manchester time somewhere around fifty minutes, by using HS2 to Crewe and then running at 200 kph into Manchester.

So will this make the need for the Peak Main Line unnecessary?

I very much doubt it.

Suppose a family who lived in Nottingham were going to Manchester to see their favourite band, football team or just for a day out.

How many would be tempted to take the fast route one way and the slow scenic route without a change on the other?

Colin Boocock calculates that Nottingham to Manchester will take one hour forty-three minutes via the Peak Main Line from when it is opened.

HS2 may be faster than that at around an hour with a change, so it will be a case of paying the money and making the choice.

But if the Peak Main Line is reopened, this will mean that Matlock, Buxton and all the intermediate places will be given a faster route to London as East Midlands Hub to Euston will be just sixty-eight minutes.

The Peak Main Line will become a valuable feeder line for HS2.

HS2 could also open up more paths on the Midland Main Line for freight, so could we see more stone trains going South.

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport is an ambitious player in the transport game.

  • The Ordsall Chord will give is much better connections to the North, Yorkshire and the North East of England and Scotland.
  • Rail improvements around Chester and Liverpool will give it better access to Cheshire, Shropshire and North Wales.
  • HS2 will give improve its connections to the West Midlands and the South.

I believe that just as Gatwick Airport has become an important rail hub, that the same thing will happen to Maanchester Airport.

The main connections that Manchester Airport lacks are decent links to Sheffield and the East Midlands.

This diagram shows the rail lines between Manchester and the Airport.

The Hope Valley Line from Sheffield, feeds into Stockport to go to Central Manchester.

The Peak Main Line can join the Hope Valley Line either via the Buxton Line at Hazel Grove or as the stone trains currently do at Chinley.

At the present time, there is no direct connection from the Hope Valley Line to Manchester Airport.

But if one were needed, I’m certain that it could be arranged.

I believe it is possible to connect the Mid-Cheshire Line that goes from Stockport to Navigation Road and Altrincham, to the Styal Line, which is the main route to the Airport. This would be done at a new junction North of Gatley station.

This Google Map shows the area where the railway lines cross.

Gatley station is at the South-West corner of the map and the Styal Line runs Northwards past the motorway junction between the M60 and the A34.

The Mid-Cheshire Line runs across the map South of the motorway junction and the Alexandra Hospital.

This connection could be done in one of several ways.

  • Trains could reverse at Stockport station.
  • Trains could stop at Stockport station and travellers would simply walk across the platform to connect to trains to and from the Airport.
  • It might even be possible to connect the Hope Valley Line directly to the Mid Cheshire Line.

The last option would be my preferred one, as if it could be built, it would give Sheffield very good access to Manchester Airport.

This Google Map shows the junction South of Stockport, where three lines divide.

The Mid-Cheshire Line goes to the West, the West Coast Main Line goes to the South and the Hope Valley Line  goes to the East.

It would be tight and probably require some demolition to get a direct connection across the junction from East to West, but it would give superb access between Sheffield and the East Midlands and Manchester Airport.

There would be two routes to Manchester from the Hope Valley Line

  • Direct via Stockport
  • Indirect via Manchester Airport, where the train would reverse.

Services could even be arranged to call simultaneously at an enlarged Hazel Grove station, to give travellers the maximum flexibility.

A reopened Peak Main Line will surely be on Manchester Airport’s wish list.

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House is one of the UK’s favourite country houses and it lies under four miles from the sites of the former stations;Hassop and Rowsley on the Peak Main Line.

Reading the excellent How To Find Us page on the Chatsworth website, I get the impression they make it easy to get to the house, by all sorts of routes.

So , I would suspect they would welcome one or both of the stations, if they reopened.

Recently, I visited Hassop station and found they had lots of bicycles for hire.

Peak Rail

I can’t leave this post without mentioning Peak Rail, the heritage rail company with ambitions to connect Matlock to Buxton via Bakewell.

In Travelling Along Peak Rail, I describe my trip between Matlock and Rowsley South stations.

What impressed me was their professionalism, in both the route and the way they ran the trains.

I suspect that given time and enough money they will achieve their ambitions.

But what if the big beasts of Derbyshire County Council, Northern, East Midlands Trains, Network Rail and possibly Manchester Airport want the route for themselves?

My view is that this is a tourist area and if co-operation could enable a heritage service between Matlock and Buxton, this would bring visitors and their money to the area.

I think too, that some of the engineering challenges will need the money that some big beasts might bring!

I can envisage a time, when passengers will have two trains per hour to and from Derby.

  • One train might terminate at Matlock and allow passengers to connect to a heritage service going North.
  • The other train would continue through as a stopping train to Manchester.

This is just one of a long list of endless possibilities.



It’s very difficult to find a reason not to reopen the Peak Main Line






May 30, 2017 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , ,


  1. […] Line links Derby with Matlock and because it forms the Southern part of Peak Main Line discussed in Connecting The Powerhouses and it was a fine day, I had to go and take a […]

    Pingback by Exploring The Derwent Valley Line « The Anonymous Widower | May 31, 2017 | Reply

  2. […] Connecting The Powerhouses, I said […]

    Pingback by Travelling Along Peak Rail « The Anonymous Widower | June 1, 2017 | Reply

  3. You missed a line from Hazel Grove (where Hazel Grove Chord takes off trains between Sheffield and Manchester) to Northenden Junction.
    Very difficult to make a connection where EW lines cross the Styal line though – big motorway junction.
    The through section of the Hope Valley line over the main line into Stockport was sadly removed relatively recently.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | June 2, 2017 | Reply

  4. Midland Route supposed problems…..

    Landowner refusing entry to those wishing to carry out a survey……Simple solution…..legislation to allow access. It probably already exists and all that has happened is inexperienced surveyors have backed off to avoid a problem with the landowner. Pathetic really..!

    Severn Water laying a pipe on the trackbed…….This is lazy constructional work by Severn Trent……Simple solution……Secretary of State exercises his powers to stop such work.

    I had thought that building / blocking trackbeds, (usually by councils and other public bodies, but sometimes by private firms and individuals), was a thing of the past. We have heard so many times that trackbeds were to be protected, but it would seem not.

    I do seem to recall this was mentioned when John Prescott was the Minister……..but I could be mistaken.

    The Secretary of State should protect……ANY and ALL trackbed, routes and station sites as a matter of course and as a priority without delay.

    Of course, things are not helped by Network Rail itself who seem keen on operating ‘the minimalist railway’ wherever they can by allowing development on land close to existing trackbeds………..often restricting future railway expansion.

    Look no further than the railway west of Manchester Victoria, where round the site of the former Manchester Exchange Station we have buildings restricting the trackside areas.

    Anyone with any commonsense knows that we should have been developing Manchester Exchange Station years ago to provide a new and more central station linked to Victoria, but the opportunity was lost when the halfwits within BR closed Exchange………and then subsequently sold the bulk of the Victoria site for a silly stadium,………and in the process diminishing Victoria to a Stygian and unwelcoming hellhole.

    The nonsense was that BR sold the bulk if the Victoria site for about £60 Million to the City Council when it wanted to bring the Commonwealth Games to Manchester……………AND……..the nonsense came full circle when Network Rail recently spent the same amount, (or was it more), to “refurbish and improve” Victoria……….something they had made a mess of earlier in selling the site.

    Truly, you could not make this up if you tried……

    James Hennighan
    Yorkshire, England

    Comment by James Hennighan | February 20, 2019 | Reply

  5. HS2…….A most unnecessarily extravagance….!

    Completely unnecessary as it is predicated upon creating faster journey times to and from London. This project is for the benefit of London and nobody else…….although in a mad rush to grab a slice of the pie, councils and politicians the length and breadth of the country are running to embrace it.

    The “…….please can my borough / constituency be linked to HS2 and have a station…….” mentality has taken root. Well it would, wouldn’t it, especially when everybody sees £’s on the horizon….

    HS2 is a vanity project designed to play catch up with European Railway systems that electrified decades ago…….and at a time when technology should be taking us in different directions.

    HS2 will do nothing for the vast majority of the country because it fails to address interconnectivity across the country without needing to go through major hubs / cities.

    As far as London to Birmingham…… though there will be many other similar examples if it goes ahead……..the trains will travel too fast for tea, coffee or meals to be served to passengers.

    Plus the total nonsense of so much of it being built in tunnels……..!

    HS2 is over budget already…….will continue to go over budget…….

    My own estimate is that it will reach £500 Billion, (yes, I did say that), in next to no time…….AND……I would predict it will go far above that in the end.

    There is a ‘Group Think’ mentality involved with HS2……where spending the money becomes secondary to the ‘project at all costs’ belief. This is the way it is with large scale projects, where vanity is involved and where the name of the game is everyone can get a ‘piece of the pie’…..

    Anybody with any sense can see the way that HS2 is going and the wise would call a halt to the project before the harm is done.

    Unfortunately, we are in the hands of fools who don’t have the wit to call a halt to the spending…..AND…..just want to keep spending more……. because they cannot think differently.

    “…We’ve spent so much so far……how can we possibly stop now……..?”

    Such lies the madness…..!

    James Hennighan
    Yorkshire, England

    Comment by James Hennighan | February 20, 2019 | Reply

    • I am afraid I disagree!

      We need more North-South capacity for both passengers and freight and a new railway is the only way.

      HS2 won’t take freight initially, but as passengers transfer to HS2, this will free up freight paths on the West Coast Main Line.
      If freight capacity on the railways is not increased between North and South, then the extra level of goods brought about by increased population and prosperity will have to travel on the roads.

      So we’ll need to build more roads!

      Comment by AnonW | February 20, 2019 | Reply

  6. Manchester’s problems are not totally down to British Rail.

    They had a plan for three tunnels under Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. Liverpool got its excellent tunnel including the Wirral Loop and Newcastle got the Metro tunnel.

    Manchester was to get the Picc-Vic Tunnel to connect the lies across Manchester with a couple of stations in the centre.

    Then along came Harold Wilson, who said that everybody would have cars and the railways weren’t needed, so he cancelled the Picc-Vic Tunnel, just as he cancelled the Channel Tunnel and Maplin Airport.

    British Rail also had a habit of not following Beeching. They closed the Waverley and Varsity Lines, both of which are now being rebuilt.

    I actually think, that Beeching has been very unfairly treated by history.

    Comment by AnonW | February 20, 2019 | Reply

  7. […] wrote in full about this route in Connecting The Powerhouses, after an article was published in the June 2017 Edition of Modern […]

    Pingback by Fresh Calls For ‘Missing Link’ Buxton To Matlock Railway Line To Be Reopened « The Anonymous Widower | October 18, 2019 | Reply

  8. […] wrote a post with the same name, based on his article, from which a lot of the following thoughts are […]

    Pingback by Will The Railway Between Buxton And Matlock Be Reopened? « The Anonymous Widower | March 29, 2020 | Reply

  9. […] Connecting The Powerhouses, I talked about an article in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, which proposed reopening […]

    Pingback by Could The Crewe And Derby Line Become A Much More Important Route? « The Anonymous Widower | June 26, 2020 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: