Derwent Valley Line
|Derwent Valley Line
- Route diverges away from the Midland Main Line just to the south of Ambergate station.
- Matlock Bath
Local passenger services are operated by Central Trains between Derby and Matlock. Services are approximately hourly on weekdays, but with some gaps. The line is also used by Midland Mainline and Virgin Trains between Derby and Ambergate Junction.
The Matlock branch lost its through services to London St Pancras in 2004 when Midland Mainline replaced its Class 170 Turbostar diesel units with Class 222 Meridian sets. The Meridians are not yet cleared to work on the branch. Belper, which is on the main line, sees one train per day (Mon - Sat) to and from St Pancras and one to Sheffield.
The section from Derby to Ambergate was built by the North Midland Railway (which ran between Derby and Leeds) and was opened in 1839. Ambergate quickly became busy with tourists alighting for Matlock Bath who would travel onwards by coach. The Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway also operated excursions from Birmingham completing the journey by way of the Cromford Canal.
In 1849 the Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway opened from Ambergate and ran as far as Rowsley. Lack of finance prevented it from proceeding any further, but Matlock Bath capitalised on its reputation as a tourist town with the appellation Little Switzerland.
The Midland, and later the LMS, regarded it as one of their premier lines, linking Manchester with the East Midlands and London. Indeed it could be regarded as the original "Midland Main Line" carrying such prestige expresses as the The Palatine and the Peaks. In the twentieth century, it also carried The Midland Pullman. Initially, there was a great deal of parcel traffic, particularly textiles from the various mills, and the line was also immensely important for coal traffic from Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to Manchester and, southwards, for limestone from the Peak District. A large Motive Power Depot was provided at Rowsley to split trains and provide banking engines for the long haul up to Peak Forest.
With the end of water power for the mills, and the introduction of road transport, the parcel traffic disappeared, but minerals remained important until the mid-Twentieth century. In 1968, however, Richard Beeching closed the route from Rowsley to Buxton.
The line to Ambergate remained as a single track carrying a small amount of limestone, with a passenger service continuing from Matlock (strongly supported by Derby railway employees with their free passes).
While the railway workers have largely disappeared, at the beginning of the 21st century, there is renewed public interest in rail, and Derbyshire County Council, among others, is keen to reduce traffic congestion on the A6 and in the Peak National Park.When goods traffic finished between Matlock and Rowsley, the line was taken over by the Peak Rail preservation group, who are campaigning for the link to be restored to Buxton. The County Council carried out a study in 2004, which concluded that it was not economically feasible, but that the track bed would be protected from development.
Meanwhile, the interest shown by the local councils, and public groups such as the Derwent Valley Rural Transport Partnership and the Friends of the Derwent Valley, has encouraged the interest of railway companies. In particular, it follows the course of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage corridor. Central Trains have heavily promoted the line's tourist potential with a specially liveried train. Midland Mainline extended some services to Matlock, though these ceased with the introduction of the Class 222 Meridians which were too heavy for several bridges which are in a poor state of repair. However Network Rail has announced its intention to overhaul the line completely in the near future, reinforcing or replacing the defective bridges.