Plans to connect Middleton with the existing Bury Metrolink line have been given a boost after Transport for Greater Manchester signalled it “made economic sense” to connect the town to the wider network.
Rochdale Council has lobbied TfGM to support the plans, which are at an early stage but include a major park-and-ride scheme to alleviate commuter traffic and to increase Middleton’s connectivity to central Manchester.
Middleton is one of three key Greater Manchester towns, along with Heywood and Leigh, which are not served by either rail or tram lines. The corridor around Middleton is also one of the largest gaps in the region’s rapid transit network.
Middleton’s nearest railway station is at Mills Hill, within the borough of Oldham, while the rest of the town and its centre are not served by a railway line. Bus services to the town have also been cut.
After TfGM signalled its initial support for the line, proposals will now be drawn up for a fully-costed feasibility study and business case to present to Greater Manchester’s political leaders.
Leader of Rochdale Council, Cllr Allen Brett, said if the project does not go ahead it would risk leaving Middleton “an economic oxbow lake”.
“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.”
A funding bid was submitted by TfGM earlier this year to extend the Metrolink’s Airport line, which will potentially add an extra stop at Manchester Airport’s Terminal 2.
The bid was submitted in February this year but the Department for Transport is yet to make a decision.