A COMMUNITY transport champion has warned of “disastrous” for Saddleworth rail users in the wake of electrification plan changes.
Before the government ‘paused’ the scheme for review after the general election, the electrification of the Manchester to Leeds and York TransPennine route was due to be completed by December 2018.
Now, the project, which includes the line through Greenfield station, has been given the go ahead once again but with a new completion date of 2022.
But Richard Knowles, a professor of transport geography, claims the news cynically conceals the four-year delay and will cause chaos for local train users.
Richard, a former Mayor of Oldham who now lives in Greenfield, said: “This is disastrous news for Saddleworth’s rail users.
“They were initially facing a two-year loss of hourly local stopping trains during electrification from Greenfield to Manchester Victoria and beyond, replaced by already crowded skip-stop trains from Leeds to Manchester Piccadilly with just one peak commuter train to Victoria.
“After the new rail franchises for Northern and TransPennine start in April 2016, skip-stop trains to Piccadilly are likely to provide a sub-standard service for six years from the December 2016 timetable.
“Saddleworth residents were looking forward to the local rail service at Greenfield station doubling to half-hourly in 2018, but this is now likely to be put back to 2022, if at all,” he declared.
“Meanwhile, Saddleworth faces the nightmare traffic scenario of a closure of up to six months of Oldham Road rail bridge at Greenfield Station for rebuilding for electrification.
“The diversionary route for buses and lorries is likely to be via Mossley or Delph,” he explained.
“Network Rail needs to consult the local community urgently to find the least disruptive way of replacing Greenfield Station road bridge.” he urged.
Mark Ashmore, chair of Stalybridge and Greenfield Rail Action Group, added: “While it is very good news the electrification will now go ahead, the extra three year delay means work will not be completed until 2022, resulting in even more overcrowding on our trains.
“The Government needs to take account of not just those who travel between major towns and cities such as York, Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester but also of passengers at the intermediate stations.
“We urgently need more trains at our local stations, not faster ones.”