The Anonymous Widower

Will The Railway Between Buxton And Matlock Be Reopened?

In Issue 901 of Rail Magazine in an article about reopening the Northern route between Exeter and Plymouth, this is said, about possible rail re-opening of Beeching cuts.

Although not yet confirmed, they are believed by RAIL to include bids to reinstate the former Midland Railway route from Matlock-Buxton, and the line between Lostwithiel and Fowey.

I have found this news story on the Matlock Mercury, which is entitled Quarry Firms And Heritage Operator Consider Peak District Railway Line.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Proposals to revive a disused rail line through the Peak District have moved a step forward, but not the passenger service some have called for.

The reasons for the reinstatement are given in the story.

  • There is an enormous demand for stone from projects like Crossrail 2, High Speed Two and Heathrow Expansion and Derbyshire is a major source.
  • Currently, stone trains between Derbyshire and the South-East take a roundabout route via the congested and unsuitable Hope Valley Line and Sheffield.
  • A route via Matlock would join the Midland Main Line nearly thirty miles further South.

It should be noted that the original track-bed still exists and part is used for the double-track Peak Rail, with much of the rest being used for the cycling and walking route; the Monsal Trail.

Thoughts About The Design Of The Railway

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways, there is an excellent article, which is entitled Connecting The Powerhouses, that was written by Colin Boocock.

I wrote a post with the same name, based on his article, from which a lot of the following thoughts are taken.

Colin Boocock’s Thoughts On The Design

I said this in my previous post.

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 Monsal Trail.
  • As a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsal 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.

But various improvements to the route and railway technology in general, in the last few years have probably made the reinstatement less challenging.

Ambergate Station And Junction

Ambergate station and the associated junction is where trains for Matlock station, leave the Midland Main Line and take the Derwent Valley Line.

This article on the BBC is entitled Major Rail Works To Affect Derbyshire Train Services and it describes work done to improve Ambergate Junction.

It is to be hoped, that the updating of the junction is at least well-documented, so that it can be updated easily to accept stone trains to and from the Derwent Valley Line.

Improved Handling Of Freight Trains At Buxton

In £14m Peak District Rail Freight Extension Unveiled, I indicated that the improvements at Buxton had been completed.

  • There are now two long sidings, that can each take a 26 wagon stone train and allow them to reverse.
  • Capacity has increased by 44 %
  • No more trains will be running.

According to this document on the Network Rail web site, the sidings operate on a 24 hour basis and on average, accommodate 6-10 freight trains every 24 hour period.

I’m not sure, but it looks like the sidings also allow all stone trains to access the following.

  • All quarries in the area with a rail connection.
  • The Great Rocks Freight Line to access the Hope Valley Line and Sheffield
  • The proposed reopened rail line to Matlock, Derby and the South.

The track layout at Buxton station would appear to allow trains to go between Manchester and Derby, once the Matlock and Buxton railway is reinstated.

Ambergate Station And Junction

Ambergate station and the associated junction is where trains for Matlock station, leave the Midland Main Line and take the Derwent Valley Line.

This article on the BBC is entitled Major Rail Works To Affect Derbyshire Train Services and it describes work done to improve Ambergate Junction.

It is to be hoped, that the updating of the junction is at least well-documented, so that it can be updated easily to accept stone trains to and from the Derwent Valley Line.

Signalling Improvements

One of Colin Boocock’s options for the route, is a 75 mph single-track railway sharing the track-bed with the Monsal Trail.

Single-track railways running an intense schedule could be a challenging signalling problem in the past, but with in-cab digital signalling, as used on Thameslink and the London Underground, it is much less onerous.

It should be possible to handle Colin Boocock’s desired minimum frequency of three trains per hour (tph) in both directions.

Colin Boocock’s second option of a 90 mph double-track railway, after moving the Monsal Trail to a more picturesque route, would be very much easier to signal to a very high degree of safety.


Electrification would surely, be the best way to get heavy freight trains in and out of the area.

But I suspect the line could not be electrified in a traditional manner, as heavy gantries in the Peak District would not go down well!

But what about a design something like this?

I talk about this design in Prototype Overhead Line Structure Revealed.

It does seem to be a good attempt to reduce the clutter of girders, gantries and wires!

Freight Locomotives

If electrification is not possible, which is probably the case, as the locomotives will need access to large amounts of freight sidings, then diesel power will be needed,

The current Class 66 locomotives are not the most environmentally-friendly locomotives, but hopefully in a sensitive area like the Peak District, some more advanced locomotives could be used.

Passenger Trains

Quiet battery-electric or hydrogen-powered trains would be ideal for the route.

How Many Stone Trains Will Use The Route?

With the current lockdown because of COVID-19, it’s a bit difficult to ascertain how many stone trains are currently going into and out of the quarries in an hour.

But from the Network Rail figures, I have found and Colin Boocock’s minimum figure,  it looks like one tph would be a frequency for which to aim.

Could this frequency be handled between Matlock And Buxton?

Even if the route was single-track with passing loops, Colin Boocock’s minimum timetable could be achieved.

Note that the Great Rocks Freight Line will still be capable of handling trains via the Hope Valley Line and Sheffield.


I think that this scheme could be feasible, if engineers used modern signalling and other designs to blend in with the scenery.



March 29, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fresh Calls For ‘Missing Link’ Buxton To Matlock Railway Line To Be Reopened

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the Buxton Advertiser.

I wrote in full about this route in Connecting The Powerhouses, after an article was published in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways.

This was my conclusion.

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

I think in the last two years the case for reopening the Peak Main Line between Buxton and Matlock may have become even stronger.


A group called the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership or MEMRAP has been setup to promote the case for reopening.

A web site has been created.

New Lower-Carbon And Quieter Passenger Trains

Rolling stock has improved and trains like tri-mode Class 755 trains and possible battery electric trains, should be able to handle the route in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Transport Of Building Materials

This is a paragraph from the Buxton Advertiser article.

Funding for the project, according to Mr Greenwood, would come from working in partnership with local quarries which are supplying materials for the new Heathrow Airport runway and are involved with the HS2 project.

Network Rail has already have spent a lot of money to improve freight access to the quarries, as I reported in £14m Peak District Rail Freight Extension Unveiled. So the demand for building materials must be there and going via Matlock would remove some heavy freight trains from the Hope Valley Line.

Heavy freight trains might not be welcomed by all stakeholders.

Possible High Speed Two Cutbacks

As I wrote in Rumours Grow Over Future Of HS2, The Eastern leg of High Speed Two might be axed.

This may or may not change the case for reopening the Peak Main Line.

There Will Be Opposition

This is two paragraphs from the Buxton Advertiser article.

Peak Rail has long campaigned to re-open the line for heritage trains to run between Buxton and Matlock. However, director Paul Tomlinson said he was not in favour of the new plans.

He said: “I’m all in favour raising the profile of the line to get it re-opened but we can’t support this new idea.

Others will also object.


There will be various opposing pressures on both sides of reopening the Peak MNain Line.

In favour will be.

  • The quarries.
  • Cities like Derby and Nottingham and passengers wanting better links to and from Manchester and its Airport.
  • Transport for the North, as opening could increase capacity on the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield.

Local interests will want to maintain the status quo.

October 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abellio’s Plans For Nottingham And Matlock Via Derby

This page on the Department for Transport web site is an interactive map of the Abellio’s promises for East Midlands Railway.

These are mentioned for services between Nottingham and Matlock via Derby..

Enhanced Sunday Service Providing An Hourly Service For Most Of The Day

Surely, this should be happening now!

Increased Community Rail Partnership Funding

Always a good thing!

Refurbished, Modern Trains

As with their plans for Nottingham to Norwich, they use the same words about the trains.

So will all these routes from around Nottingham be run using four-car Class 222 trains?

I can’t think what other suitable higher-capacity trains are available.

Except Class 170 trains and they are generally only two-cars, which probably isn’t large enough.



April 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ascending The Heights Of Abraham

The Heights of Abraham is a tourist attraction at Matlock Bath, close to the station.

I walked down, as I needed to get a train back to Derby. I did it in sensible trainers and don’t do it in anything less!

I’m sure this attraction would benefit from a better train service from Derby and Nottingham.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Exploring The Derwent Valley Line

The Derwent Valley 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 look.

I actually did three trips along sections of the line.

The middle trip was in a totally acceptable two-car Class 158 train, but the other journeys were in jam-packed single-car Class 153 trains.

In the time I was in Derbyshire, I saw three different types of trains working the line and I get the impression, that East Midlands Trains have difficulty putting together a service to both the passengers and their own satisfaction.

Their Regional Routes, which are worked by Sprinters, look to be a collection, that need to be reorganised and probably be worked by more, better and more suitable trains.

Looking at the Derwent Valley Route, which runs trains from Matlock to Newark Castle via Derby and Nottingham, you get the following typical timings.

  • Matlock to Derby – 34 minutes
  • Derby to Nottingham – 30 minutes
  • Nottingham to Newark – 37 minutes

Which makes a total  of one hour 41 minutes or a round trip of three and a half hours.

In this schedule these things should be noted.

  1. There are several mines of running on the Midland Main Line, where my Class 153 attained a respectable 70 mph.
  2. The train takes a 2 minute break at |Derby and an eight minutes one at Nottingham.
  3. The other stops are scheduled for a minute or less.
  4. I saw lots of buggies, children and a couple of wheelchairs, which delayed train boarding.

This all adds up to a round trip of three and a half hours, which is exceeding inconvenient for running an hourly service.

I suspect that any train operator prefers a dedicated number of identical trains to run a service, as East Midlands Trains have on their London services.

But this Derby-Nottingham version of Crossrail has all the structure and organisation of a relegated football teams back four.

Looking at the hour starting at nine o’clock this morning there are just three services between Derby and Nottingham.

  • 09:08 – Birmingham New Street to Nottingham
  • 09:13 – Matlock to Newark Castle
  • 09:40 – Cardiff Central to Nottingham

If this is typical, it is pitiful for a thirty minute journey between two large, important cities. Especially, in the rush-hour.

Suppose the service was doubled between Matlock and Newark Castle.

  • This would give four trains per hour between Derby and Nottingham.
  • It would give a two trains per hour service to all those stations along the route.
  • It would attract many more passengers to that poor Class 153 train.

In my view, there is only one solution to this problem and that is a high-class stopping service between Matlock and Newark Castle.

  • Two trains per hour.
  • At least two cars in every train.
  • Speeding up of the service so trains can do the round trip in three hours.
  • Step-free access between train and platform at all stations to speed station stops.

This service would require six trains, which is a problem as East Midlands Trains haven’t got the rolling stock.

It would also mean that a train would have go from Ambergate Junction, where the Derwent Valley Line leaves the Midland Main Line to Matlock and back in under thirty minutes.

As a typical train takes fourteen minutes between Ambergate and Matlock stations, with a bit of judicious sorting of the train-platform interface to speed stops, I’m certain that this would be possible.

So where do East Midlands Trains get six suitable trains of at least two carriages?

  • The route could be electrified. Impossible!
  • They acquire some cascaded diesel unit like London Overground’s Class 172 trains.
  • They acquire six Class 319 Flex trains.

The last one is probably the most realistic, as they are four-car trains with an operating speed of over 90 mph on diesel.

But why would it need the capability to run on 25 KVAC overhead electrification, as there is none near Derby or Nottingham, except on Bombardier’s test track?

So is this one of the reasons, why as  I wrote in The Class 319 Flex Units To Be Class 769, Porterbrook are seriously looking at converting Class 455 trains into Flex trains?

After all both Porterbrook and East Midlands Trains are based in Derby.

The Matlock to Newark Castle route would be transformed.

  • Two trains per hour.
  • Four cars with quality interiors.
  • Easier access for all passengers, through wide double doors.
  • There could even be modified to give more space for bikes, buggies and wheelchairs.

It would be a real case of Back To The Future, as the Class 455 trains are nearly ten years older than the Class 153 trains.





May 31, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments