Stockport Council have recently unveiled a new vision for rail travel in the area with four major priorities. As well as improving existing railway stations and ensuring that HS2 brings benefits to the local area the Council are calling for Metrolink to reach Stockport by way of the current Marple to Manchester Piccadilly rail service being converted.
Tram-trains have been part of Transport for Greater Manchester’s long-term plan for a while and linking Stockport is part of this but the Council have now come out in support with their new vision. The plan is that the Marple to Manchester Piccadilly rail service would become part of Manchester Metrolink and in turn a small extension would be built to serve Stockport Town Centre. It would be the start of a southern orbital network which connect the east of Greater Manchester to Manchester Airport, including Stockport Town Centre as a key hub.
Stockport Council have been developing their ideas in conjunction with Transport for Greater Manchester and Cllr Andrew Fender, Chair of the TfGM committee, commented: “At this point, tram-train is one of the longer-term projects for Greater Manchester and it is something we will continue to support as strongly as we can. This very useful report from Stockport Council will feed into our future plans and inform our ongoing engagement with Rail North.”
In 2013 TfGM listed a number of routes that were suggested for tram-train operation in addition to the Stockport route. These were Manchester-Glossop, Manchester-Atherton-Wigan, Manchester-Sale-Altrincham-Hale/Knutsford, Manchester East Didsbury-Hazel Grove and Stockport-Altrincham.
Tram-train operation is a “new” concept for the UK (although some may argue that Manchester Metrolink is already a tram-train network) and TfGM are waiting for the results of the proposed trial in Sheffield before progressing too far with their plans. This trial, which will link Sheffield with Rotherham, has been delayed and is now planned to start in 2016. Four new vehicles, to be built by Vossoloh, are currently under construction with the first of these due to arrive in South Yorkshire later this year.