Services will continue to run on a ‘vital’ rail line linking parts of Stockport and Tameside with Manchester following a last minute U-turn by Northern.
Despite mounting pressure the operator had insisted it had no choice but to axe services between Rose Hill Marple and Piccadilly until mid-December, citing a training backlog and the impact of Covid-19 on its workforce.
Thousands of people have signed petitions against the temporary closure of the line, while last week Lib Dem councillors in Marple floated the idea of paying another franchise to run trains for one week, in the hope other sponsors would then emerge.
But ongoing pressure from local politicians, railway station ‘friends’ groups and members of the public has now paid off with the announcement that a partial service will run at peak times.
The service also stops at Romiley and Woodley, in Stockport, as well as Guide Bridge and Hyde Central in Tameside.
Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris MP yesterday confirmed Northern Trains would keep two return services running from Rose Hill.
It is understood there will also be an additional 90-minute service via the Hyde Loop promised from October 26.
It comes after discussions between Mr Heaton-Harris, local Labour and Tory MPs and Northern – which was brought under government control in March – were held at the end of last week.
Speaking in Parliament at an adjournment debate secured by Hazel Grove MP William Wragg, the minister said Northern Trains was to introduce weekday services to and from Rose Hill focused on peak times for commuters and schools.
He said: “I can inform members that Northern has revised its timetable and outlined improvements. But I have challenged the operator to do more immediately for passengers on this line.
“Moving resources around has enabled Northern to provide some glimmer of light for passengers on this line. Northern has prioritised a running of services for passengers that’s both resilient and reliable, rather than ramping up services quickly – something I insist on.
“We need a reliable railway if we are going to have a railway at all.”
Mr Wragg, Conservative MP for Hazel Grove, has welcomed the news.
He said: “I am pleased that Northern has listened to the public outcry and have agreed to keep services on the line.
“I am grateful to the rail minister for ensuring that Northern responded to demands from myself , Andrew Gwynne and Jonathan Reynolds (the Labour MPs for Denton and Reddish and Stalybridge and Hyde respectively) We have worked together, putting our constituents first”
Coun David Meller, Stockport council’s transport lead, said it was a ‘brilliant result’ and said he wanted to make sure that a full level of service would be ‘resumed as soon as possible, well in advance of December’.
However, he had harsh words for the Liberal Democrats, who ran a separate campaign to Labour and the Tories – albeit one that gathered more than 5,000 signatures to an online petition.
The cabinet member for economy and regeneration said the group’s proposal to draft in a new operator was ‘a week-long vanity project-cum-gimmick that offered no value for money, failed to address the issue at hand and, in light of Thursday’s announcements, I expect will not go ahead’.
He added: “This proposal was dropped on council officers and colleagues at Transport for Greater Manchester without any warning. They have been forced, during the height of this pandemic we’re still fighting, to frantically work out whether their idea was even possible.
“The Lib Dems’ complete disregard for detail and officer time is only matched by their utterly reckless use of council resources.”
The Lib Dem group – which dominates in Marple – did not wish to respond directly to Coun Meller’s scathing remarks.
However, deputy leader Coun Lisa Smart believes the group’s efforts had played a key part in forcing Northern to change its mind.
“I am delighted to see that our pressure has made the government see sense and exercise the power it had all along to require Northern to continue to deliver a much needed service on this vital line,” she said.
“Whilst it is disappointing that the full service will not be delivered, this is far better than what we were facing only a few weeks ago. Along with my Lib Dem colleagues in Marple and Woodley I will continue to campaign for a return to the full service as soon as possible.”
She also thanked residents for their support, adding: “This just goes to show how strong our community can be when we work together – next time I hope Northern will think twice before trying to remove services from our area.”
Craig Wright, founder of Friends of Rose Hill Station said he was proud of the local community for the keeping up the pressure that ‘finally pushed the minister to change his mind and use the power he has to stop Northern fromclosing the line for three months’.
Services to and from Rose Hill from Monday, September 14 will be as follows
- An 08.05 from Manchester Piccadilly to Rose Hill calling at Gorton, Guide Bridge, Hyde North, Hyde Central, Woodley and Romiley.
- That train will then depart Rose Hill at 08.52, taking the route of the 08.54 Marple to Piccadilly service without serving Marple station.
- The 1419 from Piccadilly to New Mills Central would be diverted to Rose Hill, no longer calling at Marple, Strines and New Mills.
- This would then form a 1514 Rose Hill to Piccadilly service (the 1534 New Mills Central to Piccadilly would be cancelled).
- From 26th October, a new 90-minute service is set to be introduced from Rose Hill to Piccadilly (via the Hyde loop).