People power helps to save important rail service that links Hyde with Marple
From the 14 September, rail passengers in Hyde, Woodley and Marple would have been left high and dry by temporary changes to their rail service. In just over a week’s time, there would have been no trains from Rose Hill Marple apart from a once weekly parliamentary service. This would have meant more traffic congestion, little scope for social distancing on alternative routes, and more finicky journeys.
Yesterday, in the House of Commons, we found that Hyde and Marple passengers have been spared from such misery. Firstly, Hyde North, Rose Hill Marple, Hyde Central, and Woodley stations will not be closed for three months. Secondly, there will be trains on the 14 September, but a much limited service than the usual weekday and Saturday timetable.
From Monday, there will be three return journeys from Rose Hill Marple to Manchester Piccadilly station. There will be two towards Manchester via Reddish North (non-stop between Romiley and Ashburys) and one in the opposite direction. Along the Rose Hill line via Hyde Central, one to Manchester Piccadilly and two to Rose Hill Marple. All of which timetabled for schoolchildren instead of commuters. For six weeks, there will be fewer trains calling at Hyde North than at Stromeferry* on the Dingwall to The Kyle of Lochalsh line. Fairfield station will be closed for the time being.
With the possibility of Britain getting back to its offices (or its shopping centres), the Rose Hill Marple to Manchester Piccadilly service will be boosted – with a 90 minute frequency. This will take place from the 26 October 2020. Though the proposed 90 minute frequency is a comedown from once an hour, it is considerably better than the original idea of no trains up to Christmas. Also better than trying to catch the 383/384 circular bus routes between Marple and Bredbury, which have seen cuts to their daytime journeys.
For passengers wishing to take the train outside school hours, a bus replacement service will be laid on between Woodley, Romiley, Rose Hill Marple and Marple stations. If you cannot wait for that, the 375, 383 and 384 bus routes could be a decent alternative with an ENCTS pass or a CountyCard. (This is where you also miss the pre-2008 version of the 389 bus route).
As stated on the Northern Trains website, there will be some temporary measures for holders of rail tickets and concessionary permits. If you do not have a car, or unable to get a bus, there will be a Ring and Ride Taxi Service. Travel is permitted between Rose Hill Marple and Fairfield stations, which is fine if you are travelling from Rose Hill Marple to Hyde Central. From Woodley to Manchester Piccadilly, your best bet is taking the Ring and Ride taxi up to Guide Bridge, prior to getting the train there.
If you wish to travel to Fairfield, and continue to Manchester city centre, I would cut your Ring and Ride journey short at Guide Bridge. From there, transfer time between your Ring and Ride taxi and bus is a shorter walk. The walk from Booth Road [Fairfield] to the 219 and 221 bus stop is 10 to 15 minutes. From Guide Bridge station forecourt, 5 to 7 minutes for the same 219 bus from St. Stephen’s Church.
If your season ticket covers Fairfield and Manchester Stations, you can use it on the tram from Droylsden to Manchester city centre. The only failing is the walk from Fairfield to Droylsden being 20 to 25 minutes (and slightly uphill). If you normally drive to Fairfield station, parking at Droylsden tram stop is just as limited (in other words, non-existent).
The campaign to save the Rose Hill Marple to Guide Bridge line from temporary closure to passengers was thanks to people power. It was also a genuine all-party effort where three MPs put aside their political differences. Firstly, the local Liberal Democrats party started a petition, which was backed by Andrew Gwynne (Labour, Denton and Reddish), William Wragg (Conservative, Hazel Grove) and Jonathan Reynolds (Labour, Stalybridge and Hyde).
The timing of the Department for Transport’s original proposals (as Northern Trains’ Operator of Last Resort) couldn’t have been more ironic. At worst, distasteful. Over 50 years ago, Marple passengers saw the closure of two lines. The 04 January 1970 saw the cessation of passenger trains between New Mills Central and Hayfield. Also the closure of the Macclesfield line south of Rose Hill Marple, cutting off High Lane, parts of Middlewood and Poynton, and Bollington from parts of the rail network.
The temporary cuts are due to Northern’s long term staffing issues. Some of its guards, drivers and maintenance staff are shielding from COVID-19 or in self-isolation. The rail operator’s driver training issues hark back to Arriva’s stewardship of the franchise.
The Rose Hill Marple to Manchester Piccadilly line isn’t the only Northern route affected by temporary timetables. In the last four years, rail passengers between Stalybridge and Manchester Victoria have had to contend with bus replacement services on Sundays. As soon as the lockdown was announced, Ashton-under-Lyne had no train services for weeks, with passengers having to use the tram or bus.
When trains returned to Ashton-under-Lyne station this July, the town lost its direct links with Salford, Bolton and Wigan. Today, its half hourly service has been halved to a once-hourly StalyVegas Shuttle between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge.
Light at the end of the…
The next six weeks could be a pretty long one. If you work from home, the temporary situation is a good advert for reverting to the government’s original Coronavirus message (“Stay at Home > Protect the NHS > Save Lives”). Given the recent direction of travel with people being tested positive for COVID-19, there could be more curtailments to our services.
S.V., 11 September 2020.
* Stromeferry station has four return journeys on the Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness route on weekdays and Saturdays. It also has a Sunday service: two return journeys, but two more return journeys on a Sunday than at Fairfield, Hyde North, Hyde Central and Woodley stations. The full journey along this scenic route takes 2 hours and 37 minutes.
Hyde North station image by Rept0n1x, 2013 (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported).
- Miss Marple and the Disappearing Trains Part 1: Roger French’s Bus and Train User blog focuses on the case of the missing carriages and Northern Trains’ plans to temporarily cut Rose Hill Marple off from the National Rail network.