We all know that getting around Greater Manchester by public transport is far more difficult than it should be. Whilst it’s often easy to get into and out of Manchester, going between other areas – even those that are nearby – is often more of a challenge. We need to improve existing services, but we also need new routes to connect up our communities.
Sometimes this means reviving little-used lines from the past. For example, the railway line through Reddish South station, which once saw hundreds of trains a week for intercity rail services, local passenger services and freight, has gradually diminished. In the 1960s, passenger services were limited to providing a frequent service between Stockport and Stalybridge to link intercity and local services going into Piccadilly with Transpennine and local services going into Victoria.
By the early 1990s it was reduced to a ‘parliamentary service’ of one train a week in one direction only – the minimum required to keep the line open without going through long and complex closure legal procedures.
The 2008 Network Route Utilisation Strategy proposed closing the line and stations to passenger traffic. I led the opposition to this and out of those campaigns the two groups – the Friends of Reddish South Station and the Friends of Denton Station (also on the line) – were born.
For 12 years we’ve been lobbying GMPTE (now TfGM), Network Rail, Northern, Ministers, Councillors and the Mayor of Greater Manchester to get the stations used for a service between Stockport and Victoria (and possibly onwards to other destinations at either end).
There are technical issues to overcome, including capacity at Heaton Norris junction, where our line crosses over the West Coast Mainline, but they’re not insurmountable and TfGM have found that a minimum of 2 trains an hour service is possible now, with no changes.
TfGM has listened, and have drawn up two technical bids in my sponsorship which I’ve submitted under Government’s Restoring Your Railway Fund.
One is for rail services between Stockport and Victoria using Reddish South and Denton and the second is for a Metrolink tram service using the same line but with a spur at Ashton Moss to join with the tram line to Manchester.
Southbound there’s an opportunity to have a spur at Heaton Norris and a short section of on-Street track down Wellington Road into the new interchange (which could then link directly into the proposed East Didsbury link providing an orbital service linking Stockport and Manchester in a loop).
Either suggestions are technically possible and exciting. I’m happy to support them and grateful to the work over the years put in by the brilliant Friends groups. Fingers crossed!