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.

HS2

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.

 

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

3 Comments »

  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.
    See https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.3878858,-2.1754374,14.45z?hl=en-GB
    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


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