A £3.785 million cycle trail could soon be built across the Peak District National Park, linking Matlock and Buxton. Work will start early next year if the Park Authority approves the scheme at a meeting later this month.
The route has just received a major boost in the form of a £1m contribution from the Department of Transport. This would be spent on the section between Buxton Station and Bakewell, where four former railway tunnels are set to be re-opened.
Cycling England has already pledged £1.25m to the project. The Authority is now seeking other funding partners, including Derbyshire County Council.
The new cycleway would allow visitors to arrive by train and cycle into the heart of the National Park, as well as providing a commuting route for locals.
It would use existing cycle routes wherever possible (including the Monsal, High Peak and Tissington trails), linked up by road sections. Exact routes are still being finalised with the county council, but the trail should be over 20 miles long.
A spokeswoman for the Park Authority told BikeRadar: "Now we've got this funding from the Department for Transport the trail looks almost certain to go ahead. The ideal we hope to achieve is a circular route between the two towns [Matlock and Buxton] but that's dependent on the county council and landowners giving their say-so."
The four tunnels between Buxton and Bakewell, which were closed when the rail route was axed in the late 1960s, are 400 metres long and will be fully lit. The spokeswoman said: "It should be a really interesting trail to ride along."
Thirty-two percent of the UK population lives within 60 miles of the Peak District, and the National Park already has a 58-mile network of cycle trails and cycle hire centres. But some 85 percent of visitors to the White Peak (southern and central Peak District) arrive by car, with just one percent cycling.