Thursday, August 29, 2019
Sign the petition - link Marple with Stockport by rail
There are so many great things about living in Marple.
But let's be honest, the relationship with Stockport is an odd one. Many people don't even put Stockport on their addresses, preferring to think of it as Marple, Cheshire, and avoiding thinking too much about who the direct debit goes to once a month to pay for the bins to be collected. Then there's the local councillors who about half of us elect most years, without them ever campaigning on a vision for leadership in Stockport. That's not a criticism, by the way, but a valid observation.
To get to most places from Marple, I imagine a journey through Stockport doesn't figure much. You either go round it, or join the M60 motorway to go through it, rarely touching the centre itself. Unless that is, you actually want to go to Stockport. At peak times, this is slow. My kids get a bus to college in Stockport that is unreliable due to congestion, and frankly it is disgracefully expensive.
So it doesn't exactly help to build a civic connection when there isn't a direct train service, despite Stockport station being only 4 miles away. Building a new line wouldn't be easy or practicable, mainly because of the topography, and there was probably a good reason it hadn't been done in braver bolder times.
But now that there are ambitious plans for Stockport - greater residential concentration and a larger secondary office market in the centre - and that the commuting population of our area seems to be increasing exponentially, then it would at least be worth examining travel patterns to see what could reduce road usage and provide a better link.
Thus far, Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester Mayor, has developed an ambitious plan for a massive expansion of routes around Greater Manchester including the possibility of a tram train to Manchester from Marple and Rose Hill, improving a spoke into Manchester. However, there is a simpler and more achievable short term solution - a train service linking our community and parts of Tameside with Stockport.
As you know, the Rose Hill services to Manchester Piccadilly pass through Hyde and Guide Bridge, passing by a branch line which runs to Denton, Reddish South and then joins the main line just north of Stockport station at Heaton Norris. An alternate service along this line to Stockport would take about half an hour, pretty much the same as the bus.
There are lessons from London's development of the orbital overground 'orange line' which upgraded poor services on under-performing routes with high frequency, better designed trains, that in turn opened up more variety of journeys and locations. I don't underestimate the hurdles that have to be overcome, but I do see the urgency of creating a rail system that better serves all parts of Greater Manchester.
Andy Burnham gets this, which is why his own transport strategy - Our People, Our Place, Our Network - took a long term and wider view on a whole host of spatial and transport issues. These include sustainable transport, different types of journeys used mixed modes and opening up the whole of the city region to new possibilities.
The Stockport to Guide Bridge line is just such a service, and it's only through sustained jostling from local campaigners and the Friends groups at local stations that the case can be made consistently.
A chap called James O'Mullane has started a petition that I hope more people will sign.