Cheadle could be ‘on the cusp’ of having its own railway station for the first time since the mid-1960s.
The Stockport suburb has been invited to bid for up to £25m from the government’s ‘Towns Fund’ – part of ministers’ plans to ‘level up the regions’.
After being named among the places to benefit from the £3.6bn pot, a Towns Fund board – including the likes of Cheadle MP Mary Robinson and council economy chief David Meller – was formed to oversee a bid for the money.
And a new railway station – which Cheadle Village Partnership says has been a staple of residents’ wish-lists over the years, will be central to the plans they put forward.
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Coun Meller is now urging residents to respond to a survey being carried out on behalf of the village partnership to gauge public enthusiasm for the proposed new transport link.
The board hopes to submit its bid to the government by the first deadline in October this year.
If ministers back the proposals, the railway station is likely to be built next to the Alexandra Hospital along the mid-Cheshire line – close to where the original Cheadle (later Cheadle North) station was.
And those behind the package believe it could be up and running within five years – possibly much sooner – and will be much easier to implement than the long term aspiration to bring Metrolink to Stockport and Cheadle.
Although surveys carried out over the last decade have shown a real appetite for a new station among local residents and businesses, there have been some dissenting voices.
Critics have questioned whether it is really needed given there are stations at nearby Cheadle Hulme, East Didsbury and Gatley.
But Coun Meller says the benefits would ‘open up’ a host of opportunities for the area – vastly improving connections to Manchester, Stockport and further afield and linking up with better bus, walking and cycling provision.
“It would help to unlock a lot of things for the area and bring more employment here by improving connectivity quite significantly,” said Coun Meller, who says bus services to Manchester and even Stockport are currently still ‘quite long-winded’.
“It would very likely go on the Manchester Piccadilly to Chester line near the Alexandra Hospital. It would support the hospital as well as the AA not too far away and would help bring other potential employers into the area as well.”
The station would also be expected to boost the high street, although Coun Meller acknowledges that a combination of joined-up transport and some improved parking facilities will be needed to ensure existing traffic problems are not exacerbated.
Residents views are currently being canvassed via a survey for Cheadle Village Partnership, but Coun Meller says he would be ‘surprised’ if there was significant opposition as the response to date has been .’very, very positive’.
Of the £25m bid, around £9m is expected to be spent on the station, with the full details of the package still under discussion.
“It would be one overall package with a theme around it and the train station would be central to it,” said Coun Meller.
The bid has broad political backing locally, ranging from Conservative MP Mary Robinson, Labour’s Coun Meller and Lib Dem councillor Tom Morrision.
Cheadle’s 11-strong interim Towns Fund board also includes Simon Elliott of Transport for Greater Manchester, Marge Falconer – executive director at the Alexandra Hospital – and Revd Dr Rob Munroe – Chair of Cheadle Village Partnership.
Revd Dr Munroe said he did not want to pre-empt the results of the survey, but says past experience would suggest a high level of backing for the new station.
He said: “On at least three occasions over the last 10 years we have consulted the community through the village partnership and the train station has been the single best-supported proposal over those times on three different occasions.
“We have had a few other things that have cropped up, but it’s the single thing everyone agrees would make the biggest difference because the the traffic is such a big issue.”
He adds that the lack of connectivity – unique to any major district centre in Greater Manchester – means people have to commute or visit via car.
“A significant town as we are should have better connectivity – in addition to the railway station the buses have been in decline, so there are strange things like you can’t get a bus from central Manchester to Cheadle after 7pm. It’s quite shocking.”
People who live or work in Cheadle can have their say on the proposed new station by visiting cheadlevp.info and clicking on the link for the survey.