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The line is made up of two sections; The first section is the remains of the former Biddulph Valley Line, which used to run from Stoke to Congleton, with the section from Stoke to Milton Junction being intact. This used to be a double track section, but was rationalised to single track after the loss of the passenger services.
The second section is the former single track connecting line to Leek from Milton Junction, passing through the villages of Milton, Stockton Brook and Endon before meeting the Churnet Valley Line at Leek Brook Junction for the 1 mile run into Leek. The section from Endon to Leek Brook though used to be double-tracked but was singled at the same time as the first section.
Both of these lines were part of the North Staffordshire Railway network that was constructed in the second half of the 19th century. The Biddulph Valley line was authorised on 24 July 1854, with passenger services commencing in 1864. The Milton to Leek was authorised during 1863, with the passenger and goods service commencing on 1 November 1867.
With the end of freight traffic from Cauldon & Oakamoor in 1988 the line went out of use, but was designated as a strategic freight site. In 2009, Moorland and City Railways Ltd (MCR) obtained a 150-year lease on the Cauldon Lowe Branch from Network Rail with the intention of reopening the line for quarry traffic. This would require the use of the Stoke–Leek line as well, and negotiations have been ongoing since 2010 regarding the return to service of the line.
In January 2012 the Churnet Valley Railway (CVR) stated its intent to run a heritage service to Endon from Leek Brook as the first stage of this, following the clearance of vegetation along the line in 2011 that enabled a comprehensive survey to be undertaken of the trackbed and structures along this section. The CVR then began planning the replacement of sleepers, but were forced to stop as a local resident made a village green application for the trackbed, claiming that the line had become a public footpath through its lack of use as a railway for a number of years and that many locals used it as a footpath already. This was eventually rejected by Staffordshire County Council, as none of the criteria for village green status was met.
Negotiations have continued between MCR (plus CVR) and Network Rail in order to agree operating conditions for the planned heritage services on a restricted number of dates to Endon. In early 2013 it was announced that the CVR would be looking to take a tenancy out on part of the former station building to open a tea room to create a presence within the village and signal its commitment to returning trains to the station.
It has been proposed that the line could be reopened following the Government's plans to expand the network.
This line has been identified by Campaign for a Better Transport as a priority 1 candidate for reopening.
- "Strategic and Supplementary Freight Sites". Network Rail. Archived from the original on 10 September 2014.
- "New rail link 'best thing in years for Moorlands'". The Sentinel. 15 October 2009. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
- "Agenda item: Application to Register Land along the Disused Railway Line at Endon as a Town or Village Green". Staffordshire City Council.