A restored diesel multiple unit at Idridgehay. Photo: Chris Moxon

Passengers from all over Britain can now buy a through ticket from anywhere on the national rail network to Wirksworth, eight miles along the preserved Ecclesbourne Valley Railway in Derbyshire.

This is a major step forward for a preserved railway and helps achieve Railfuture’s aim of giving preserved railways a more important role in Britain’s public transport network.

Ecclesbourne runs heritage trains between Duffield (on the Nottingham-Derby-Matlock line, which is operated by East Midlands Trains) and Wirksworth. It has a 1 in 27 incline up to Ravenstor.

Tom Wait of the EVR told the BBC: "Now someone anywhere at all in the UK can go on to the national railway planner, put Wirksworth as a destination and our timetable comes up.

“I am most grateful to our colleagues at East Midlands Trains who have supported this innovation.”

The line opened in 1867, but closed to passengers in 1947, and freight in the 1980s. EVR and WyvernRail volunteers reopened the line in 2011.

One rail campaigner said the EVR should be congratulated on beating Swanage, Watercress and Bluebell to be included on the national network as defined by the online journey planner.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway already runs on to the National Rail network by providing a service to Whitby, but the NYM trains are not on the Network Rail journey planner.

Another campaigner said: “Surely the next big thing for rail is to get more of the preserved lines running as part of the national network somehow, and combining that with a heritage line.”

Preserved lines as public transport

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway timetable