At an extraordinary meeting of Marple Area Committee last night, Liberal Democrat councillors secured agreement in principle to the council funding the operation of the Marple Rose Hill line to deliver services between Rose Hill, Romiley, Woodley, Hyde Central, Hyde North and Guide Bridge stations using West Coast Railways as the operator as Northern Railway has refused to reconsider the temporary closure of the line from 14th September.
At the meeting, Lib Dem councillors also secured a commitment from Northern Railway’s Regional Director, Christopher Jackson, that the temporary closure is not a pre-cursor to a permanent one, and the line will resume normal operation after 14th December. Mr Jackson also confirmed that the relevant Conservative government minister did have the ability to prevent the line closure, but had chosen not to exercise that power.
Following a Councillor Call for Action initiated by Liberal Democrat Councillor Lisa Smart, the councillors from the Marple and Werneth Area Committees met with representatives from Northern Railway, Transport for Greater Manchester and relevant council officers to discuss the closure, which will see services axed from Rose Hill and Woodley stations and services reduced from Romiley station, as well as affecting services in Hyde and Guide Bridge and further increasing pressure on Marple Station.
The meeting was also attended by the three Chairs of the “Friends of” groups for Romiley, Rose Hill and Marple stations who each made passionate representations against the withdrawal of the service, highlighting the impact it will have on local transport users, and challenged the rationale behind it. Their voices echoed those of the 5,540 people who had signed the Liberal Democrat survey opposing the line closure.
At the end of the meeting councillors resolved to use their local funding powers to run a train service for one week, inspired by a previous initiative by Tim Farron MP in Cumbria, to prove that it can be done and to try to make Northern Rail think again about this closure.
Cllr Lisa Smart, parliamentary spokesperson for Hazel Grove and councillor for Bredbury Green and Romiley, said: “We stand behind our local residents who have once again shown the need for this vital railway service and local Liberal Democrat councillors have acted where Northern Trains and the Conservative government have failed to.
“By using the relatively limited powers available to us we have been able to do what both Northern Trains and the Department of Transport have so far refused to do. We call on Northern Trains and the Conservative government to think again and reinstate this service once the very limited local funding runs out.”