Plans to reinstate the Monsal railway run out of steam

Countryfile - White Peak - May 2021 - The Monsal Dale viaduct viewed from the valley floor

A BID TO draw up plans to reinstate the rail connection between Bakewell and Buxton – which could have led to trains running across the Monsal Dale viaduct once again – has failed to attract government backing.

The Monsal Dale viaduct, and sites across the Monsal Valley, provided evocative locations for the third series Survivors episode Mad Dog – which was recorded entirely on location by the BBC’s Outside Broadcast (OB) camera in 1977 in Monsal Dale, above the Dovedale Valley near Ilam and on the Severn Valley Railway.

A proposal submitted by MEMRAP (the Manchester and East Midlands Rail Action Partnership) had hoped to win financial support from the Department of Transport’s Restoring Your Railway Fund to pay for a full feasibility study of reinstating what it is calling the ‘Peaks and Dales’ line.

Rail tracks and impacts

MEMRAP had argued that replacing the line, which had been removed during the 1960s as a result of the baleful ‘Beeching Cuts’ which decimated sections of the country’s rail network, would deliver economic and social benefits, and boost ‘greener’ public transport links in the Peak District.

While the Peak District National Park Authority, which is responsible for the area of the national park through which any rail line would run, remains fully committed to a “low-carbon and sustainable future for travel and access for all to the national park”, it does not support MEMRAP’s analysis or its proposal.

Because of the importance of the Monsal Trail as a tourist, leisure and recreational attraction, it insists that MEMRAP has not considered the negative impacts – and the loss of facility – that the return of rail to the Monsal Valley would impose.

The Park Authority also argues that MEMRAP has not met the threshold of proven need and that therefore it does “not accept that the reinstatement of the railway on the route of the Monsal Trail” would deliver the benefits that MEMRAP claims.

Unsuccessful bids

More than 80 proposals had been submitted for the most recent round of awards from the Restoring Your Railway Fund. In late June 2022, Rail minister Wendy Morton announced £15m in funding split between nine potential railway schemes.

MEMRAP’s proposal was unsuccessful and attracted no government support.

The nine approved bids were ones able to demonstrate they would “bring significant socio-economic benefits” and presented “a clear narrative around the proposed services and infrastructure requirements.”

Particularly disheartening for MEMRAP’s supporters was that the ‘Peaks and Dales’ proposal was relegated to the largest group of ‘Unsuccessful bids to the Ideas Fund’ – which is effectively the ‘reject pile’. Backers of a far shorter list of schemes were invited to develop a fuller Business Case for future government consideration.

Alternative funds

A MEMRAP spokesperson appeared on East Midlands Today on 26 June to confirm that the campaign would continue to explore alternative sources of funding. There’s still no disguising that, for supporters of the ‘Peaks and Dales’ rail plan, this news is an enormous blow.

Any hopes of trains running across the Monsal Viaduct at any point in the foreseeable future have suffered a serious setback.

See also: Bid to reinstate rail line through Monsal Dale meets opposition (20 November 2020)

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