Plan to link Middleton to tram network

Date published: 21 June 2018

Regional transport bosses have signalled their support for Rochdale Borough Council’s plan to link Middleton with Greater Manchester’s Metrolink system.

The council’s leader, Councillor Allen Brett, has urged decision makers to get on board with his plan for a new route to connect Middleton to the Bury to Manchester line.

Plans for the new line are on track after a meeting between the council and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) where the regional transport body agreed that it made economic sense to install the much-needed extension.

The new line would include a new major park and ride scheme to alleviate commuter traffic travelling south into the city and serve the growing population of Middleton and its surrounding areas, which are seen as important future growth areas.

Middleton, Heywood and Leigh are the only remaining secondary town centres in Greater Manchester that are not currently served by rail or tram lines. Sale, Denton, Farnworth, Stretford, Irlam, Swinton, Prestwich, Radcliffe, West Houghton, Eccles, and Hyde all have stronger public transport connections. 

The corridor around Middleton is the largest gap in the rapid transit network serving the regional centre and the addition of a Metrolink extension into Middleton town centre is a key part of Greater Manchester’s Transport Strategy. 

The proposal for the new line will now be developed in greater detail so that a fully-costed feasibility study and business case can be presented to Greater Manchester’s political leaders.

Councillor Brett said: “Middleton is a pretty well-populated area full of wonderfully talented people, who are, sadly, not currently served well with public transport options. Neither are the many great businesses there or the colleges and their students, and the town centre. That is why I am pressing to create this vital link between the town and the tram network.

"I was pleased that we were able to persuade TfGM that this made sense and I hope that the plan will finally receive the backing that it needs to become a reality.

“If Middleton does not get this extension, I fear that it will become an economic oxbow lake, with its residents left isolated and cut adrift from the increasing opportunities that are being created in Greater Manchester. This must now be treated as a priority for the region.”

There are more households than cars in Middleton and its wards have some of the lowest rates of car ownership in the borough of Rochdale. 

Bus services from Middleton to Manchester have become less frequent following a number of cuts to services and the remaining ones are less frequent and have circuitous routes to the city centre.

The nearest railway Station serving Middleton is Mills Hill, which is in the borough of Oldham, does not serve the west of Middleton, and is far from the town centre. During peak times passengers are frequently unable to board trains from Mills Hill because of overcrowding and are left standing on platforms. There are also no current plans to increase the number of off-peak rail services stopping at the railway station.

Liz McInnes MP says: “It is excellent news that after a great deal of lobbying by myself and Rochdale Council, TfGM have finally signalled their support for the Metrolink system to be extended to Middleton. I was living in Middleton at the time that the tram network first opened and along with many other residents I was disappointed and surprised that a major town such as Middleton wasn’t included from the start.

"I’ve long called for Middleton and Heywood to be included in the Metrolink network and for public transport links here to be improved. The recent chaos with Northern Rail has highlighted the problems on our railways, but we mustn’t forget the bus and tram network either. If we’re going to get the region growing we need to get it moving, and reliable and affordable public transport is key. Extending Metrolink to Middleton is a good start.”

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