FOUR former railway tunnels which have been closed since the demise of the Midland Railway in 1968 were reopened yesterday – to cyclists instead of rail passengers.
The tunnels have been refurbished in a £2.25m project funded by the Department for Transport and will be officially opened by transport Minister Norman Baker on May 25.
They form part of the Peak District National Park Authority’s existing Monsal Trail, which links Blackwell Mill and Bakewell.
Work started to reopen the tunnels and improve the surface of the Monsal Trail in December 2009 and was completed earlier this month as part of the Pedal Peak District project.
Two shorter tunnels on the route – Chee Tor number two and Rusher Cutting – already formed part of the trail.
But the other four – Headstone Tunnel, Cressbrook Tunnel, Litton Tunnel, and Chee Tor Tunnel number one – could not be used for safety reasons, with public footpaths taking people around them.
A Peak District spokesman said the idea of the project was to “create a traffic-free route into and through the national park and make cycling a realistic, healthy alternative to using the car for work and leisure”.
They added: “The tunnels help create one of the most spectacular trails in the country offering cyclists, walkers and horse riders stunning views of the Peak District National Park not seen for more than 40 years.
“The public can now experience the full length of the former railway route at their own pace and see breathtaking views at places like Water-cum-Jolly Dale that have remained hidden since the railway closed.”
The next stage of the plan is to create a circular route linking to Matlock.
Just clearing the tunnels cost £20,000 while surveys cost £40,000 and access ramps a total of £60,000. Specialist repairs to make the tunnels safe cost £360,000, resurfacing £400,000 and lighting £600,000.