Council plans to transform Maclure Road to public square "could result in loss of valuable public transport connections"
Date published: 22 October 2021
How Rochdale's new 'Station Square' could look if pedestrianised
A local rail campaign group has voiced concerns that council proposals to pedestrianise the area in front of Rochdale Railway Station would result in the loss of a “valuable connection” between the different forms public transport.
Rochdale Borough Council has proposed redeveloping the area in front of the railway station, which also has a Metrolink tram stop and a bus stop within 100-yards of its entrance.
Earlier this year the council consulted on ambitious plans to transform the area which includes pedestrianising a section of Maclure Road to create a brand-new public square in front of the train station.
Rail group STORM (Support the Oldham and Rochdale Manchester rail line) has pointed out that – if the plans are passed – the 471 bus service which currently serves the front of the station, would be diverted to the station’s rear entrance on Miall Street.
Such a diversion would see the service follow Oldham Road before turning onto Lincoln Street via Lincoln Close, past the Park and Ride facility onto Miall Street at the rear of the station and then onto Milkstone Road – before passing under the Milkstone Road railway bridge to resume its route.
Bus operator Diamond has confirmed that it would need to continue using double decker buses on its 471 service – which can pass under the 4.72m rail bridge over Oldham Road (like the First 409 service to Oldham which often uses double deckers) but the bridges on Richard Street (3.8m) and Milkstone Road (3.7m) are too low for the bigger buses to safely pass under.
High Level Road, which buses used to follow before the Metrolink network was extended to the borough and the mini-roundabout removed from Maclure Road, is also no longer a viable option, now forming part of the route between the station and Newbold.
As this could leave the Rochdale-Bolton bus service running via Drake Street, STORM members says this would lose a “valuable connection” at Rochdale whilst going against the Greater Manchester Bee Line aims of making public transport a “seamless” operation.
A spokesperson for Diamond said the double decker buses are “a necessity on the route,” adding: “As it stands, we would be forced to route the 471 well away from the rail station which would be detrimental to the whole objectives of the Bee Network. We have held meetings with Rochdale Council where we have expressed our concerns.”
STORM chair Richard Greenwood said: “I am sure that any other town or city would be delighted if they had a railway station, tram station, bus stops, a taxi rank and disabled parking all within a 100 yards radius.
“The 471 bus service is not just a local bus; it gives a connection to the trains and Metrolink from Sudden, Marland, Heywood and beyond. As well as transport interchanging, the Catholic church, Nye Bevan House health centre and the new Fireground Museum are all destinations in their own right and many people will travel by the number 471 bus.
“Owing to my advancing years, I have become less agile and have realised how difficult walking can be even for a couple of hundred yards, and more difficult still when it's wet or icy.
“We must keep the 471 bus – which in its pre-PTE days (Passenger Transport Executive) was the Rochdale Corporation route number 21 – where it belongs at the front of the station. It's been running for almost ninety years.”
STORM is urging for the plans to be reconsidered and allow the 471 to continue its long-standing route.
Mark Robinson, assistant director of economy at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “Our proposals for the area around Rochdale station are in their very early stages and the detail around how any future scheme could be implemented has yet to be determined.
“Despite this, we met with TfGM and Diamond Buses at a very early stage to make them aware of our plans and open a dialogue. We made the company aware that we don’t have any detailed designs for station square at this point, but that we will maintain discussions with them and re-consult with them at the appropriate time.
“In the longer term, as part of these proposals, we’re keen to see more bus services calling at Rochdale railway station to make it even easier for more people to make sustainable transport choices and easily transfer between train, bus and other greener forms of transport.”
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