By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
LONG awaited plans to make Greenfield train station accessible for disabled people could be thrown in jeopardy if transport bosses decide to scale back on electrification works.
People in wheelchairs, with pushchairs or carrying heavy luggage currently struggle or are unable to travel from Oldham’s remaining station as they have to cross a footbridge to change platforms.
This involves climbing a total of 48 steps across the bridge which was installed to replace as the subway beneath the station more than four decades ago, after it was prone to flooding.
Proposals to modify the station to provide full disabled access are being considered as part of Network Rail’s serially delayed Pennine Rail route upgrade.
But a meeting of Oldham Council’s overview and scrutiny committee has been told the Department for Transport may choose not to electrify the whole line and instead exclude the section between Stalybridge and Huddersfield to cut costs.
This would mean local leaders would have to find another way to make the station accessible, and potentially need to bid for funding from Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM). But there is no guarantee this could be delivered in the near future.
Joanne Betts, principal officer for transport and highways policy, said: “Disabled access at Greenfield station is very much tied up with the proposed Network Rail scheme to upgrade the Trans Pennine route network.
“So that scheme has been delayed and delayed and delayed, it was put on hold for a while.
“That is currently sitting with the DfT to make a decision as to whether they are going to electrify the whole line or whether they are going to electrify just sections of it.”
She told members that if full electrification was agreed, engineers would need to lift the road bridge and footbridge which would ensure disabled access was installed.
“If they decide that they’re not going to electrify that section then they’re not going to do that because they don’t need to provide the additional height,” Ms Betts added.
“So we’ve lobbied, as a council, TfGM are lobbying on our behalf, Rail North are lobbying for different reasons because their concern is journey times and reliability.
“But everyone that can lobby is lobbying for full electrification and if we get that, that will automatically bring that disabled access.”
The issue becomes more complex as Greenfield is currently excluded from being considered as part of the government’s ‘access for all’ programme – because of the promised Network Rail update.
A decision was expected in February, but this has now been delayed again until later in the spring.
Ms Betts told councillors they would pursue all other options to meet the ‘obvious need’ at the station if the full electrification did not get the go ahead.
“The best bet at the moment is it gets picked up as part of that scheme, if it doesn’t then it’s still just as needed,” she said.
Greenfield also currently isn’t one of the top 10 stations that are priorities for TfGM for disability access – also because of it’s potential to be upgraded in the Network Rail project.
.In 2016/17 the station had a footfall of 370,000 – the second highest use of the stations in Greater Manchester highlighted for access improvements.
Disabled access at Greenfield was raised during an update about the draft ‘GM2040’ transport strategy for the region which would sit alongside Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.