A CAMPAIGN to re-open a Saddleworth station that has been closed for more than half a century is gathering pace.
Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding has thrown his weight behind long-standing local calls to see trains stopping again in Diggle.
As part of Government plans to reverse the ‘Beeching closures’ of hundreds of stations and lines in the 1960s, the borough is urged to bid from a £20 million New Stations Fund.
Councils and community organisations will be able to make pitches for new stations to be built in their areas as part of its rail regeneration scheme.
Diggle halt at Sam Road shut on October 7, 1968, together with other stations on the line including Saddleworth and Slaithwaite.
Successful lobbying saw trains return to Slaithwaite in 1982. Greenfield, now serving more than 300,000 passengers each year, is Oldham’s sole surviving rail hub.
Garth Harkness, councillor for Saddleworth North, has repeatedly championed the re-opening of Diggle Station.
And now there could be light at the end of the tunnel with Councillor Fielding raising the issue with Transport for Greater Manchester bosses.
“The train station in Diggle was one of my pledges to campaign for in the election in 2011,” he told the January meeting of Oldham Council.
“Even though I came last, I don’t hold a grudge and still campaign for it.
“I know Diggle Station has been the ambition of people in Saddleworth for a long time.
“It is fair to say, of all the parts of our borough, Saddleworth is one of the most chronically underserved in terms of public transport links.
“Despite being a councillor from Failsworth, it is often issues from Saddleworth that I find myself raising most frequently when I go down to Transport for Greater Manchester committee meetings.
“It is particularly important we secure a station for Diggle given the bus service that used to run to the turning circle was withdrawn a number of years ago.
“So, I will continue to campaign for the inclusion of a halt at Diggle in TfGM’s masterplan. Hopefully, we will secure that additional station so people from Diggle can get about more easily on public transport.”
Cllr Fielding’s support for the scheme has been welcomed by Dr Richard Knowles, former Mayor of Oldham and visiting professor of transport, Huddersfield Business School, University of Huddersfield.
“It is an official Oldham Council priority to reopen Diggle Station so there must be no delay,” he said.
“The site of Diggle Station is still available to reuse, whereas Saddleworth Station building was sold as a private house.
“Since 1968 there has been a lot of house building in Diggle and the population has nearly doubled.
“A new station in Diggle would be a welcome boost for residents and especially for commuters, not just from Diggle but also from Dobcross, Delph and Denshaw as well as from parts of Uppermill to Huddersfield and Leeds as well as to Manchester.
“Diggle Station is also well placed for hikers to access the Pennine Way.”
Cllr Ateeque Ur-Rehman, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Services, said “As Councillor Fielding noted in the last council meeting, he and I will continue to lobby TfGM and central government for funding to reopen Diggle Station.
“We need a transport network that is fully interconnected and covers every part of the region.
“Investment in transport infrastructure is absolutely vital if you want to improve the lives of people in Oldham.”