Ken Munns, left, Betty Nesbitt and Wilfred Oven officially open the tunnels on the Monsal Trail. All three last saw the tunnels when they were railway employees working at stations along the former Midland Railway line

Ken Munns, left, Betty Nesbitt and Wilfred Oven officially open the tunnels on the Monsal Trail. All three last saw the tunnels when they were railway employees working at stations along the former Midland Railway line

A walking and cycling trail through disused railway tunnels was officially opened by retired workers who last used them when they were employed by the Midland Railway.

The Monsal Trail through the Peak District national park runs through four railway tunnels which have been repaired, resurfaced and lit to enable their use by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

The trio of retired railway workers, Betty Nesbitt, Wilfred Oven and Ken Munns, cut a ribbon at the opening ceremony at Headstone Tunnel. The event was also attended by the Duke of Devonshire, schoolchildren, councillors, local residents, as well as cyclists, walkers and horse riders.

The tunnels were reopened as part of the £2.25m Pedal Peak District Project. The trail runs from Blackwell Mill near Buxton to Coombs Road near Bakewell, for a distance of 14km (8½ miles).

The Duke of Devonshire said: “The Monsal Trail is now one of the most extraordinary routes in the Peak District. The great Victorian engineers did our generation a huge favour which will have profound effects on how people experience this part of the national park in future. It is fantastic for Peak District tourism putting it at the forefront of English destinations.”

Councillor Tony Favell, chair of the Peak District National Park Authority, said: “Re-opening the tunnels to create a traffic-free cycling route through some of England’s most spectacular countryside has created a ‘wow factor’ experience.

“Everyone who has been through the tunnels has loved it and we expect the new route to attract a lot of interest in the coming months and years, with all the benefits that will bring to the local economy.

“The route not only helps tackle congestion on the roads and promotes sustainable transport but it will also help protect the environment and encourage users to lead healthier lifestyles.”

Transport minister Norman Baker had been due to open the route officially but had to pull out to deal with Parliamentary business.

Derbyshire County Council has made a £4.8m bid to the Department for Transport’s Sustainable Local Transport Fund to extend the route, creating a circular route linking Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton, with another section connecting to the World Heritage Site at Cromford.

A decision on the bid is expected by the summer. Planning permission would also be needed before any new sections of the route could be built.

The Peak District National Park Authority, which owns and manages the Monsal Trail, is asking everyone to respect other users of the new routes by following a basic code of conduct.

Users are being asked to:

  • Keep to the left and pass in single file
  • Use a bell or call out ‘bike’ when approaching others from behind on a bicycle
  • Keep dogs on leads and under control. Clear up any dog mess they leave.
  • Take all rubbish home with them

Derbyshire Police teams will be patrolling the trail to take action against anyone breaking the law by using motor vehicles and motorbikes on the route.

More details on the trail can be found on the Peak District national park website.

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