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Rail Link to Stockport?

Matthew Corrigan

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Marple Stockport Glossop New Mills Rail Link

Traffic in Marple has been a major concern for many years. At peak times Stockport Road becomes a car park, with commuters from Glossop, New Mills, High Peak and beyond all funnelling through the town and adding to the already heavy local commuter traffic.

With increasing levels of housebuilding, the opening of the A6 to MARR road at High Lane and further significant potential expansion under the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework plan, the volume of cars and vans is unlikely to decrease soon. There is a growing consensus that something needs to be done to tackle the problem, but very little in the way of a solid plan.

Could a heavy rail link between Marple and Stockport be the answer? Steve Gribbon, a councillor for Marple North ward, thinks it might be. Coun Gribbon is a member of the scrutiny committee of the rail network for TfGM (Transport for Greater Manchester). In this role, he has held meetings with Network Rail (which owns and manages the bulk of the UK's rail infrastructure) about the idea and the company has agreed to “commence initial searches into the area”.

While it all sounds radical, it has been done before. There was once a direct service from Marple into Stockport, prior to the Beeching Axe which led to the closure of thousands of miles of railway lines nationally. Of course, it is still possible to travel into Manchester Piccadilly and back out to Stockport, but this requires a change of train.

One possible solution would be to make a small addition to the infrastructure that already exists. Users of the Hope Valley line who travel between Marple and Piccadilly will be aware that their trains pass beneath another line as they cross Reddish Vale. This is the Stockport to Stalybridge route. There is sufficient space to build a link or chord connecting the two lines. Although they run at different levels, the engineering challenge would not be insurmountable. Indeed, the former Macclesfield to Rose Hill line (now the Middlewood Way) used to be connected with the Stockport to Buxton line by way of the Middlewood Curve, evidence of which can still be seen close to Jackson's Brickworks Local Nature Reserve.

Although little more than an idea at the moment, Councillor Gribbon intends to pursue the matter. As well as shifting some of the burden from the local road network, it would open rail commuting to the towns along the A34 corridor and help make Stockport itself more accessible to the people of Marple and its environs. Given the amount of spending being lavished on the HS2 and Crossrail projects, perhaps the time is right for Network Rail to seriously consider the suggestion.