Last month, the Government introduced a bill to connect the HS2 rail network between Crewe to Manchester.
Now, I’m always for more connectivity between regions. However, on closer examination, this Bill contains some proposals that would be disastrous for Tameside.
As part of the major construction involved with the project, it is likely that Metrolink services on the Ashton line will be suspended for a significant period of time – probably years – with a replacement bus service instead providing access from Ashton to New Islington on the effected line.
This is totally unacceptable. These Metrolink services are vital to people across Tameside, and they should not just be fobbed off with a rail replacement bus service.
I’m really angry about this proposal. Not just because of the inconvenience it will cause residents across Tameside, but also because it points to a wider attitude that Tameside could do without.
All too often, people in Tameside are not adequately considered in major decisions that will affect their lives. This kind of decision wouldn’t be imposed on any other region of the UK, so why should we tolerate it here?
I fail to see how the Government and rail planners didn’t appreciate the impact these works will have on Tameside. We can’t just mothball a crucial piece of public transport infrastructure. It’s a terrible idea.
I’ve been campaigning hard on this with Audenshaw Cllr Oliver Ryan, who feels just as strongly as I do about this issue. Cllr Ryan and I went out on the doorstep earlier this month and heard first-hand from residents who are understandably concerned about what this proposed plan will mean for them.
I want to reassure residents that I’ll be tabling amendments to this Bill and will be urging the Government to look at other ways of carrying out this construction work. At the very least, the Government needs to ensure that trams continue to run between New Islington and Ashton whilst construction works are ongoing. It’s worth pointing out that this would be Transport for Greater Manchester’s preferred option, but so far, the Government have sidestepped this request.
Local Councillors and I will not allow Tameside to be overlooked yet again. We will continue to fight locally and nationally to improve the lives of residents across the Borough. We all want to cut journey times, but this should not be at the expense of vital tram links.