Point of No Return: All Aboard the Ghost Train

The Stockport – Stalybridge Train (1128 hours, Saturdays Only)

Is this the worst scheduled passenger rail service in Europe in terms of frequency?

Running once a week, Saturdays only, is a train with only one journey – just one journey in one direction. The train calls between Stockport and Stalybridge via three intermediate stations: Reddish South, Denton and Guide Bridge. Both Reddish South and Denton are unstaffed stations without disabled access and (wait for it) platform lighting.

Before privatisation, this line had a much better service than that of passengers travelling to Mossley by rail from Stalybridge, with an hourly frequency. In 1991-92, 12,000 people signed a petition against cutbacks to the service, which boasted a frequency of five trains a day (two one way, three the other). Now, the current service is once weekly, and passengers to Mossley are now afforded an hourly service with a two hourly Sunday service.

The latest Network Rail Draft Network Management Statement for the North West proposes the closure of Denton and Reddish South stations. The local MP Andrew Gwynne favours the launch of a direct service from the doomed stations to Manchester Victoria.  This move will increase journey opportunities for Denton and Reddish residents, as they would be able to travel to Bury, Bolton, Oldham and Blackburn without crossing Manchester city centre.  This plan will involve turning left at Denton junction onto the line leading to Ashton Moss and Miles Platting.  However, there is one problem in that links between Stalybridge and Guide Bridge would be severed.

In my opinion, I would give 2.5 cheers to this plan (the .5 being due to the real ale lovers missing their once weekly unidirectional shuttle to the Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar).  Perhaps Gwynne’s proposal could prompt the reopening of Droylsden station.  Cut off from the rail network since 1968, the Droylsden area suffers from congestion between Manchester Road (Audenshaw) and Edge Lane/Ashton New Road.  This would be alleviated by a reopened Droylsden station off Lumb Lane near Littlemoss (as well as the Metrolink).

To make up the loss of the Stalybridge – Guide Bridge – Denton section of the route, I would recommend retaining the once weekly train for the time being, in addition to Gwynne’s proposal.  This could be replaced by a direct London service, or other services to Cheshire, starting at Stalybridge or Huddersfield.  This section also offers potential for a prospective Huddersfield to London Euston route (calling at Stalybridge, Guide Bridge and Stockport stations), though subject to line access issues.

14 thoughts on “Point of No Return: All Aboard the Ghost Train

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  1. I believe that re opening droylsden station would be a great benefit to the area. For the people who live in the area wheather they go through droylsden or ashton they know they will have to sit in traffic. it would add to the public transport offered to the locals and may prompt people who work on the lines route to leave there cars at home and get the train. I my self would much rather get the train at night from town after a night out as getting taxis is neither cheap or easy. It’s faster and it is the maynes and stage coach bus routes which are very busey provide a good service to the top of lumb lane. I believe a way of getting some feedack would to surveys on wheather people would use the service and what their reasons for it would be.

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  2. Hi Colin,

    I fully understand the issues regards traffic around the Droylsden area, having experienced the worst excesses of the 216 route in the rush hour myself. One thing I could recall was west of Manchester Road Primary School (or from the police station), being held up at the Half Way House on Edge Lane.

    With train travel patronage the highest since the 1950s, a station in Droylsden would not only reduce traffic levels on Manchester Road, but increase links with Manchester Victoria – and Stockport – if Andrew Gwynne’s plans to revise the Stockport – Reddish South – Denton services were approved. As for the taxi issue, I can understand the expense – especially if you booked a Manchester cab for Edge Lane or anywhere outside the boundary – only to be stung by extra charges.

    Stuart.

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  3. Hi Stuart,

    I’m sorry if it’s taken me a number of years to add to this thread!
    I live within walking distance of the site of the old Droylsden station. It depresses me every time I walk over the bridge and witness a train rattling by and not stopping. This is the modern world (to quote Paul Weller), we should have modern transportation opportunities for the local residents. The 231 is an optional method of exiting Droylsden but its route goes round the houses and over the speed bumps, it’s not pleasant and it’s very expensive.
    I can jump on a train in Ashton and be at Victoria in about 13 minutes. I can jump on the bus and be there about 40 minutes later – needing to locate the nearest chemist for some headache tablets!
    I could go in the car but every government department is convincing us to leave the car at home. I gladly will but I need more than one miserable option!
    Travel broadens peoples horizons, I’d travel so much more if the start of any of my journeys was less arduous.
    What can we do to get the station at Droylsden opened up again? It can’t take that much, just a couple of raised platforms and some extra signalling.
    Trains create vibrancy in the local community, Droylsden has been dying a slow death since they last stopped here.

    Carl

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    1. Hi Carl,

      You are not kidding about the speed bumps on the 231 route. The speed bumps aren’t the only curse of that route; the very roads where speed bumps were added are badly maintained – bad for all road users (bus passengers and cyclists too). On one occasion I boarded a 232 into Manchester as I had plenty of time to kill and couldn’t believe how bad the ride was towards Greenside Lane. Even the smoothest of buses would have been tested.

      Just to make matters worse, the timing of Droylsden station’s closure was very poor indeed. Shortly after, we saw Droylsden expand towards Littlemoss with new development by The Railway pub and on the site of the trotting stadium/Carriages. The same happened when they closed Diggle station: village doubles in population but nearest station is either Greenfield or Marsden.

      Droylsden has three quarters of the infrastructure in place for a viable railway station. Firstly, a dense population with Littlemoss and Moorside within short walking distance from the site. Secondly, frequent 168s, 169s and 231s will serve as effective conveyors to both heavy rail and (from 2012 onwards) light rail stations. Thirdly, little additional track work is needed as trains will go via Ashton Moss Junction.

      Technically, it shouldn’t take much work, but the Byzantium structure of our privatised railway may hinder things. The cost of building a basic station has soared since the start of rail privatisation.

      You are right in saying how trains create vibrancy in the local community. Businesses are more attracted to a fast rail route, as are shoppers, football fans and casual travellers. For instance, the Borders region (Selkirk, Kelso, Galashiels) has suffered heavily from the loss of the Waverley line. Not only from tourists but also businesses wishing to relocate. Closer to home, Leigh has also suffered from the loss of its railway. Locals favour a rail link over a busway.

      Therefore, a railway station is not only an outward image of the town centre. It is that of being part of a wholly national ticketing system (in spite of its shortcomings and prices) – something that the Leigh busway wouldn’t be able to offer! One in Droylsden would be a useful part of the public transport mix alongside the 216, 231 and the Metrolink.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  4. As a member of the Littlemoss Residents Association a subject which is regularly raised at our meetings is the question of the Littlemoss Railway station ever being re-opened. Our local councillor, Jim Middleton was recently asked about this and he said he had brought up the subject a few years ago with Tony Blair (name dropper!) and it was agreed that it would be a good idea but that was as far as it went and Mr Middleton did not pursue it. Due to the problems all residents of Littlemoss have to experience trying to negotiate the traffic problems along Moorside Street to get through the centre of Droylsden the prospect of the station for the ever growing population of Littlemoss would be the ideal solution. I would like to raise this question again and would be grateful for any suggestions as to how a successful proposal for the re-opening of the station can be brought about. Research shows that proposals were sent to Tameside Government in Oct 2006 which British Rail and GMPTE were in agreement with but I cannot find any further developments so presumed the plans were scrapped. According to Cllr Middleton the approximate cost would be just over 1 million pounds as opposed to 135 million pounds for the metro!
    Thanks, and any support would be gratefully received,
    Vanessa, LRA

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    1. Hi Vanessa,

      A heavy rail station for Littlemoss (possibly named on the timetable as “Littlemoss (for Droylsden)”) would not only be a cheap deal for Droylsden town centre. It is also the joys of wider through-ticketing throughout the entire National Rail network. At local level there’s potential for through-ticketing with bus/train/tram. At a national level, it also means online booking as well as paying the conductor-guard for journeys beyond Greater Manchester (with the latter, supposing any new station would be unstaffed, which may be likely).

      A future Littlemoss station has potential for Tameside and Stockport residents who work in the nearby industrial units. It will offer prospective pupils at the Droylsden Academy a traffic free link to the school. It will be perfectly placed for exploring Daisy Nook and the Medlock Valley. With all these advantages, I’m for it, and it could happily co-exist with bus and tram routes to and from Droylsden.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

      P.S. It could also be a boon for train travelling football fans en route to The Butchers Arms.

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  5. I’m 100% with you Vanessa. As for suggestions? The first thing we’d need to do is get rid of Mr Middleton (I refuse to use the title Cllr). We need somebody who is dynamic and eager to fight the cause for East Droylsden.

    Stuart, the Academy site at Littlemoss is closing down very soon. The council probably have plans for another housing estate on the site – LOL! Will they fight to get our station back though? Probably a little too much effort required on their part for that.

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    1. Hi Paul,

      Not only local fame, but national fame as well! Few people probably know about Gainsborough Central’s Saturdays only service (three return journeys) compared with the Stockport – Stalybridge run. Likewise, true of the limited services from Berney Arms and Abererch stations.

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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  6. with the electrification through droylsden of the leeds manchester route it is obvious the electrification of the stockport -denton-victoria route would provide a diversionary route through manchester in the event of a blockage in the piccadiily area (planned or otherwise).This would also accomodate a stockport to liverpool,blackpool or beyond electric service to benefit passengers from the tameside area with this in place Droylsden station would be a viable option for re-opening,this would cost a fraction of new tram lines….

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    1. Hi Les,

      Infill electrification of the Ashton Moss to Heaton Norris would not only have benefits for possible services from Stockport to Blackpool or Liverpool. It would also be good for rolling stock movements between Stockport sidings, and Longsight and Newton Heath depots.

      Firstly, overhead line equipment could also be added to the Guide Bridge – Denton Junction which could be good for all-electric freight movements as well as passenger services. Secondly, the track between Guide Bridge and Heaton Norris would have to be redoubled.

      Thirdly, if the whole of, or part of the Calder Valley line was electrified in future years, the Brewery Sidings chord could be electrified, allowing for a possible diversionary route or (though I doubt as if this may be viable) a new service from Rochdale to Stockport!

      Whether this costs less than a few new tram lines I don’t know. Since the start of rail privatisation, the cost of building new lines and railway stations soared to ludicrously high amounts (given its internal market structure).

      Perhaps the return of investment may not be high enough in their eyes. Or it could be the lack of train paths at Manchester Victoria station, given the fact there’s only two bay platforms (compared with four through platforms).

      Bye for now,

      Stuart.

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