Whaley Bridge people are alarmed at the prospect of heavy goods traffic coming to the local railway line – day and night. And all because of Bridge 42, where the railway line crosses Buxton Road.
The Battle over Bridge 42 has arisen because Network Rail wants to demolish the bridge, between the Uniting Church and Whaley Bridge primary school, and rebuild it in modern, stronger materials.
The once attractive bridge, built partly of metal, looks rusty and neglected. Scrape marks from the occasional high vehicle are visible.
Network Rail’s plans have become public because the Victorian bridge is protected by ‘Grade II listed building’ status. To have access to heavier rail traffic from the Buxton area quarries, the bridge must be demolished, then rebuilt in stronger materials.
At present quarry traffic in the Buxton area only has one route in which to access the national rail network. via the Hope Valley line. National Rail want to be able to use the line going through Chapel, Whaley, Furness Vale and Disley for quarry traffic. A better bridge means trains could travel faster – and more noisily? – through built up areas like Whaley Bridge. And locals fear there would be traffic through the night.
The plans have set alarm bells ringing in Whaley Bridge. Other communities along the line may still be unaware of the potential increase in traffic .
High Peak borough council’s planning committee will consider the demolition plan in October. A Network Rail spokesman explained their reasons for wanting the back-up of the Whaley Bridge line: ” In the event that the Hope Valley line is not available for any reason (engineering work/train failure/landslide etc) any trains en route to the quarry have to be brought to a stand, wherever they are.
“This in turn blocks whichever line they happen to be on, delaying other services. It also has an effect on the efficient running of the quarries and the industries they serve.
“An alternative route for quarry traffic would be via the Whaley Bridge line except that the bridge in question is not designed to carry such traffic. Consequently, we are seeking permission to demolish and rebuild the bridge to bring it up to modern day standards.”
The spokesman added: “Assuming we get the go-ahead, then yes, there will be an increase in freight services by virtue of the fact that they do not currently go that way (so even one train is an increase); an increase in trains will inevitably mean more noise (because the trains do not currently go that way); trains may well run at night but that is dependant on the requirements of quarry customers; as for the length of the new procedure, assuming we get the go-ahead it will be indefinitely.”
There is a lively series of messages on the Whaley Bridge website’s discussion forum. One posting challenges English Heritage for not opposing the destruction of the Grade II listed bridge. “The bridge could be upgraded to increase line speed and the external appearance still give the look of a Victorian structure. It’s all down to costs. Try doing this upgrade in Brighton – English Heritage would not give the answer they proffer in Whaley Bridge.”
Another message noted that increased rail traffic with quarry materials was preferable to the alternative – vastly increased lorry traffic on the roads.
And yet another: “I wonder what the laws are in America and Canada relating to trains laden with thousands of tons of stone thundering 20ft above infants going to and from school.”
Whaley Bridge town council has objected formally to the planning application. Their grounds included:
- freight trains will create noise through the night and day
- there should be consultation over the listed bridge, which is in a conservation area, being demolished.
Council chairman John Swift visited the rusting bridge and said: “If properly looked after, it would be very impressive. We got rid of the A6 going through the village years ago – now we face the awful prospect of more trains thundering through day and night.”
The Battle of Bridge 42 is on…
Picture shows Coun John Swift at Bridge 42