Cyclists on the Monsal Trail at Headstone Tunnel. Photo: Mick Garratt CC-BY-SA-2.0

Cyclists on the Monsal Trail at Headstone Tunnel. Photo: Mick Garratt CC-BY-SA-2.0

A trail along a former railway track has seen a dramatic rise in cycling traffic since four tunnels were reopened on the route.

Bosses in the Peak District said the automatic cycle counter on the Monsal Trail in Derbyshire clocked up its 50,000th cyclist on New Year’s Eve.

The national park authority’s transport policy officer Tim Nicholson said: “On average there have been 226 cycles per day along the trail in the seven months since the tunnels re-opened.”

The counter has recorded 17,160 cyclists travelling towards the tunnels and 32,855 south-bound towards Bakewell since May.

The authority said the opening of the tunnels has boosted business along the route and brought health benefits for residents and visitors.

Hassop Station cycle hire and cafe owner Duncan Stokes said: “It’s exceeded all expectations. We had no idea how popular the trail would be.

“We’ve had 10,000 hirings since we opened last March. We created two full-time jobs to run the cycle hire and six extra part time jobs during the summer.

“Opening the tunnels created a destination so people can come and spend a day in the area. It’s had a knock on effect for the cafe as well. There was a marked difference in the number of customers after the tunnels opened.

“Looking forward I hope the plans to join the trail up to Buxton will happen. Returning visitors like to see something new and being able to go further on the trail would be a good thing.”

Cheryl Ashton who owns Blackwell Mill cycle hire said: “It’s been a complete success story for us. We had a falling-down garage that we’ve rebuilt and created a successful business from scratch.

“It’s been life changing for our family. I used to work in insurance but now run the cycle hire and tuck shop. My stepdaughter Vicky has worked in the shop at weekends and has enjoyed it so much she now wants to study tourism at university.

“It’s been wonderful for us to see so many people enjoying the Monsal Trail and be a part of their day out. We are really excited about re-opening on 1 March. For the future we hope that a cycle route into Buxton will be found as it will help us grow our business.”

The mild winter so far meant that cyclists, walkers and horse riders were able to enjoy the Monsal Trail over the festive period. If tunnel conditions become unsafe due to cold or wet weather the tunnels may have to close at short notice for safety reasons.

The 8½- mile (13.7km) Monsal Trail is popular with walkers, horse riders, people on mobility scooters and families with pushchairs, as well as cyclists.

Trail users are urged to check the tunnels website before setting out to make sure the tunnels are open.

Lights in the tunnels operate on a daylight sensor. In winter they switch off around 4.30pm so people are advised to carry a torch or use bicycle lights in case they get caught out.

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