STALYBRIDGE residents do not want to be linked to the tram network because there is a “perfectly good” train service already, a councillor has claimed.
A heated debate flared at a meeting of Tameside’s full council about plans to extend the borough’s tram routes to reach the town.
The proposal has been included as part of the first five-year plans of the Greater Manchester’s wider transport strategy, which runs through to 2040.
Released alongside the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, the combined authority has set out a potential boom in Metrolink coverage across the region, including extended and new lines.Under the plans the Ashton line would be extended from Ashton, where it terminates, through to Stalybridge, which is already served by a railway station.
However Conservative councillors Doreen Dickinson and Liam Billington both took issue with the expansion proposals.
Cllr Dickinson said: “This won’t bring growth to Stalybridge. We need to improve the rail network in and out of Stalybridge. We already have good connections with Leeds and Liverpool and we need this council to get behind a train service to Stockport.
“The line is there. We have one train a week and this would bring far more growth and jobs to the people of Stalybridge than Metrolink will.”
Cllr Billington added that in his experience, people living in the town did not want to be connected to the tram network.
“When I’ve spoken to residents, Stalybridge residents don’t want the Metrolink and I’ll explain why,” he said.
“It’s because we already have a perfectly good train service when it works and we have five trains per hour at peak time which gets you into Manchester in just over 10 minutes whereas if you were to get the Metrolink, there may be a higher frequency of services, but it would take way longer than ten minutes, in fact I imagine it would take over 40 sometimes.
“So, it would be a downgrade for our residents to get the Metrolink because as we know from other towns like Altrincham and Bury, Metrolink replaces rail and it has a negative effect on the existing rail services there so I personally would be against Metrolink for Stalybridge.
“I can’t see it bringing a benefit for our town.”
However senior Labour members, including council leader Brenda Warrington and cabinet member for finance Cllr Oliver Ryan hit back arguing that Stalybridge should be “part of the vision” for the Metrolink.
Cllr Ryan told the meeting the Conservative group did not have oppose “every bit of progress and investment in the town centre”.
And Cllr Warrington said: “This is something that you may not be in support of it, but I do believe that there would be a lot of Stalybridge residents who would be very much in support of the Metrolink being extended to Stalybridge.
“I believe the Metrolink would be better being extended to all of our major town centres and I hope I see the day when that happens to Denton and to Hyde and to Stalybridge.”
Cllr Warrington added as a Denton councillor she was backed the reopening of the Stalybridge line and pointed out Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, was also a driving force behind it along with the Friends of Denton Station and Friends of Reddish South Station.
• Cllr Dickinson also questioned the ruling Labour group about the lack of progress on other items included in the Inclusive Growth Strategy.
“It contains some very good points but has no substance. It tells you what needs to be done for growth but not how to achieve it,” she said.
Cllr Dickinson raised the regeneration through the widely acclaimed Stalybridge Town Centre Challenge.
She pointed out there had been three previous plans for Stalybridge, none of which were ever implemented, and she was worried about the lack of progress with the latest initiative.
Cllr Ryan described is as “unfair” to say nothing had happened and they have a massive investment planned which will transform the town.
And Cllr Warrington added the vision is to make Stalybridge a destination venue with boutique shops not found elsewhere.
“We are working hard at it, but it is not going to happen overnight,” she observed.
Cllr Warrington pointed town centres all over the country are in need of TLC, their decline starting well before the pandemic.
Cllr Dickinson also raised the issue of four proposed town centre health hubs, explaining there was no mention about how they would be funded and wanted to know if they were achievable.
She also raised the issue to the proposed Godley Green Garden Village pointing out Tameside Council had wanted planning permission granted by the end of 2020, but that had not happened.