The leaders of Rochdale and Oldham councils have joined forces to press for direct trams from their towns to Manchester Piccadilly station, criticising a “short-sighted decision” by transport bosses to vote against broadening Metrolink services.
Currently trams from Rochdale stop at Manchester’s Exchange Square. They will eventually go on to East Didsbury when the second city crossing is completed early next year.
However, Rochdale Council leader Cllr Richard Farnell and Oldham leader Cllr Jean Stretton are demanding that some trams go to Piccadilly.
Their bid to divert Metrolink services to the mainline station was defeated at a meeting of Transport for Greater Manchester earlier this month. Following the vote, Rochdale and Oldham’s leaders raised the issue again last week at a meeting of all council leaders at the Greater Manchester Combined Authority.
Cllr Farnell said: “There are a lot of warm words throughout Greater Manchester in support of Rochdale and Oldham’s demands for more investment in our areas to promote growth and redress the economic imbalance that exists across Greater Manchester. This is one of the first opportunities to match those words with deeds. And TfGM has failed.
“We should link Oldham and Rochdale with a direct tram route to the most important transport hub in the city region. This will give us an important edge and incentive for businesses to invest here.
“Transport chiefs have argued there isn’t the demand compared to other areas – but that’s precisely the point we are making. Without investment in good transport links we will never be able to match the demand from more prosperous areas such as Bury, Media City and south Manchester, who all have a direct tram to Piccadilly. It means we will always be back of queue when decisions like these are made, compounding our economic woes.
“The short-sighted decision-making model used by transport bosses is all wrong. We should be planning for future growth and prioritise areas like Oldham and Rochdale to help accelerate economic activity where it is needed most.”
Cllrs Farnell and Stretton will now enter into “top level talks” with Greater Manchester’s interim mayor Tony Lloyd and TfGM chief executive Andrew Fender to press the case.
In response, a statement from Peter Cushing, TfGM’s Metrolink director, said: “The services proposed for the Oldham-Rochdale line provide easy access to key employment and leisure facilities across the network, including Piccadilly, with just a single – and quick – change of tram.
“The proposals are based on the customer demand for all parts of the network and operational constraints, one of which is that it is simply not possible to run every service direct to every location.
“As such, introducing a direct service from Oldham to Piccadilly Rail Station would require established services from Altrincham, Bury or MediaCityUK to be displaced, which would affect thousands of existing journeys.
“Once 2CC opens we will continue to monitor and tailor service patterns to ensure the future tram network takes into account current and predicted patronage growth”