Why is Greenfield station – the only railway station in Oldham Council boundaries – still inaccessible for mobility impaired passengers?
The Trans-Pennine route via Huddersfield should be given the same level of importance as the West Coast Main Line. Or at least any commuter route in the South East of England. Between Manchester and Huddersfield you have six trains per hour. All good and proper if you travel between the two points, but what if you want to travel from Stalybridge, let alone Mossley or Greenfield?
Almost a year ago, the Huddersfield line’s stopping service was withdrawn, split into two skip-stop services. As well as scuppering the Rail Ale Trail it has increased journey times between Mossley and Greenfield. It is now 20 minutes including a change of train at Stalybridge. More if you count the waiting time between trains. If the 350 bus was more reliable, that would be a more viable alternative. Especially as you only see step entrance buses in the Greater Manchester Museum of Transport.
Today, East of the M60 has learned about the sidelining of Greenfield station from the Department for Transport’s Access For All scheme. Along the Huddersfield line, Stalybridge and Huddersfield stations have benefited from Access For All funding. With Greenfield the only National Rail in Oldham Council boundaries, its importance is greater than ever.
Greenfield station should be a major bus/rail interchange for the Saddleworth area. It is easy to get a bus from Mossley, Uppermill or Grotton to Greenfield before getting a train to Manchester. If you need to travel to Huddersfield, the 184 bus might be a better option, if you travel before 6pm.
If you need to catch a train, things are complicated – especially if you are a wheelchair user. Yes, you need to change at Stalybridge. Likewise if travelling to Slaithwaite or Marsden.
And Marsden and Slaithwaite stations are noted their commendable access for mobility impaired passengers. Not! None of Transpennine Express’ trains use the only accessible platform at Marsden station (platform 3). For wheelchair users, Marsden station is as good as closed. Here’s another station which needs Access For All funding.
Slaithwaite station has a hilly approach and poor bus access, despite having ramp access. For wheelchair users, Mossley railway station is inaccessible for northbound journeys. A change at Stalybridge is required. Fancy a trip to Slaithwaite? Ditto the above. How about Marsden? Forget it! Or a train to Slaithwaite (via Stalybridge) and a taxi to Marsden.
Thanks to the Department for Transport, the needs of mobility impaired passengers on the Huddersfield line are a lower priority than free water stations at Manchester Piccadilly station. Felix the cat gets better thought of too. It makes you wonder whether they would secretly like to close all intermediate stations between Stalybridge and Huddersfield.
In the Saddleworth Independent, Barry Carr (70) stated how even physically fit passengers have shunned the station. For the Greenfield Rail Action Group the wait came as no surprise. Accessibility improvements have been promised as part of the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade. As things stand, 25kV/diesel bi-modes have been mooted with a non-electrified section between Stalybridge and Huddersfield. GRAG have been pushing for the full electrification of the line.
In this case, the Access For All programme’s lead times have been a pain in the proverbials. This view has been shared by Conservative MPs as well as Oldham East and Saddleworth Labour MP Debbie Abrahams.
How should we improve the accessibility of Greenfield station? At Greenfield, access is gained at street level for Manchester Piccadilly bound trains. A footbridge, added to the station in 1975 (following the closure of its flood prone subway) offers the only access for passengers continuing to Huddersfield. Previously, there was a set of stairs from Oldham Road bridge (behind the present-day footbridge) and a ramp nearer to Grasscroft.
Introducing a parallel bus service from Huddersfield to Stalybridge could be one answer. It could address the accessibility issues at all intermediate stations. On the other hand, this could give the DfT carte blanche to consider closure proceedings. This has already happened between Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford where a ‘temporary’ bus service has replaced trains at Barlaston, Wedgwood and (the now closed) Norton Bridge stations.
As seen in our diagram above, improving accessibility at Greenfield station will require some substantial remodelling. Platforms should be extended south westerly and, especially on the Manchester platform, widened. On the platforms’ newly extended sections there should be a replacement footbridge, ideally with ramp access as standard. Alternatively, as seen at Marple station, a conventional footbridge with lift access from both platforms should be considered.
What may be standing in the way of adding ramped footbridges is the length of Greenfield station’s platforms. The current length of Greenfield’s platforms is less than half its length of 70 years ago. Back in 1949, its platforms extended to the coal yard and signal box. Its Huddersfield platform also had a bay for stabling trains from the line via Lydgate tunnel and Lees.
With lengthened platforms, this could solve a space issue for the footbridge. The former coal yard could be used for off street car parking. As seen in the diagram, the footbridge exit is close to the entrance. There is scope for improvements to the station buildings on the Manchester platform if the platform is extended.
The importance of Greenfield railway station to the Saddleworth area – and Oldham shouldn’t be underestimated. With nearly 400,000 passengers a year, ‘access for all’ passengers is of major importance.
In Greater Manchester, only two stations gained Access For All funding in the latest round of applications: Daisy Hill and Irlam. The latter station has subway access though travelling to Liverpool Lime Street means taking the stairs. With Daisy Hill, stairs are the only way of reaching its island platform. Both stations did need the Access For All funding, but the case for Greenfield station (which didn’t get the funding) is almost identical to Irlam’s and Daisy Hill’s.
We hope Greenfield gets the accessibility improvements as soon as possible. With delays and changes to the Trans-Pennine Route Upgrade, I have my doubts.
Before I go…
What are your views on the station snub? Do you have any suggestions to improve access at Greenfield station? Feel free to comment.
S.V., 09 May 2019.
Greenfield station image by Ian Kirk, 2018 (Creative Commons License: Attribution-Share Alike 4.0).