New plan solves through platform nightmare in considerably less time than anticipated

After years of limbo and rejection, Manchester Piccadilly will be getting its 15th and 16th platforms earlier than you think. By the time HS2 opens, it will be getting another two platforms taking it up to 18.

Victoria, Manchester’s other mainline station will also benefit from another five platforms, taking it back into double figures for the first time since 1993. Outside of Manchester city centre, Ashton-under-Lyne station will have nine platforms with Stalybridge having eight platforms, the most since Edwardian times.

You might be forgiven for thinking the Government has taken leave of its senses and realised that there is a North in England. After COVID, it is fair to say they have started taking the Levelling Up agenda more seriously. Today, in a World Exclusive, East of the M60 can reveal Grant Shapps’ exciting new plans, and how Greater Manchester will play a major part.

A easier way from A to B: taking advantage of the Passenger Interchange Stopping System

Making a seamless journey on public transport can be difficult on our privatised and fragmented bus, train and tram networks. Well before we privatised and deregulated our public transport networks, it was always difficult to know where platform 1 is in relation to G Stand. Especially on a straightforward journey from Manchester Victoria to the Cheshire Cheese in Newton.

The Department for Transport’s innovative Passenger Interchange Stopping System aims to make life easier. Manchester Piccadilly station will have two new through platforms for a start. Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange will now be blessed by nine platforms covering all three modes of transport.

From the start of April, Manchester Piccadilly station’s platforms will be as follows:

  • 1 – 12: unchanged, services as normal;
  • 13 – 14: services to Ashton-under-Lyne (13), Altrincham and Bury (14);
  • 15 – 16: newly renumbered with the same through trains as previous Platforms 13 and 14.

As part of the Passenger Interchange Stopping System, all of Piccadilly’s platforms will have the hugely successful red and yellow lines, as seen on its above ground level through platforms and at Oxford Road station. For football specials and Huddersfield trains, thin blue lines will also be added on the platform edge.

Phase Two will see the renumbering of its low level through platforms on Fairfield Street, served by road transport to Platforms 15 and 16. The previous fifteenth and sixteenth platforms – hitherto Platforms 13 and 14 – will be Piccadilly’s 17th and 18th platforms.

Phase Three, when HS2 eventually appears, will see further renumbering work. With two HS2 platforms, the old Platforms 1 and 2 will become 3 and 4. The rest of the train hall will have platforms up to 14, with the low level through platforms (Undercroft and Fairfield Street) becoming platforms 15 to 18. The high level through platforms will be renumbered 19 and 20. Phase 3A will see the addition of another two platforms to the system for more road-based transport on Station Approach and off Fairfield Street.

The Ashton-under-Lyne Pilot Initiative Stopping Scheme

Whereas Manchester Piccadilly’s scheme will be realised over three phases, the plans for Ashton-under-Lyne’s Passenger Interchange Stopping System will be implemented in full at the start of April. It aims to have all the benefits that Piccadilly passengers will have to wait 18 years for.

The Ashton scheme will have platforms for trains, buses, trams, and taxis as seen in this diagram below:

Under the Ashton-under-Lyne Pilot Initiative Stopping Scheme:

  • 1 – 2: NORTHERN rail services to Stalybridge (1) and Southport (2);
  • 3: Taxi services;
  • 4a to 4c: all existing bus services at (the former) Stands A to C;
  • 5 and 6: Metrolink services to Manchester, MediaCityUK and Eccles;
  • 7: all existing bus and coach services that use the former D stand;
  • 8a: First Greater Manchester 409 route to Rochdale (former E stand);
  • 8b: 387 and 389 routes to Stalybridge, Hyde (387) and Dukinfield (389). Former F stand;
  • 8c: 346 route to Dukinfield, Newton, Hyde and (after 7pm) Gee Cross (former G stand);
  • 8d: 348 route to Stalybridge and Carrbrook; also 350 route to Tameside Hospital, Mossley, Saddleworth villages and Oldham (former H stand);
  • 8e: 151 route to Newton Heath and North Manchester General Hospital (former J stand);
  • 8f: 237 route to Tintwistle, Hadfield and Glossop (former K stand);
  • 9a: 347 route to Haughton Green (former L stand);
  • 9b: 330 route to Hyde, Woodley and Stockport (former M stand);
  • 9c: all local bus routes that use the former N stand.

If successful, there will be another two phases to the scheme. Phase Two will give Ashton-under-Lyne 13 platforms with the tenth and eleventh platforms on Henrietta Street and Penny Meadow. The twelfth platform will be opposite Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange. This scheme will see the platforms configured that way:

  • 1 – 2: NORTHERN rail services to Stalybridge (1) and Southport (2);
  • 3: Bus Replacement Service stop (outside Ashton-under-Lyne railway station);
  • 4a and 4b: Henrietta Street bus stands;
  • 5: The Bowling Green bus stop;
  • 6: Taxi services;
  • 7a to 7c: all existing bus services at (the former) Stands A to C;
  • 8 and 9: Metrolink services to Manchester, MediaCityUK and Eccles;
  • 10: all existing bus and coach services that use the former D stand;
  • 11a to 11f: all existing bus services that use the former D to K stands;
  • 12a to 12c: all existing bus routes that use the former L, M and N stands;
  • 13: Wellington Road stop (opposite bus station).

Phase Two will be implemented on the 1st September 2022. By then, a smaller scheme will be in place at Guide Bridge, where Platforms 1 and 2 will become 3 and 4. The new Platforms 1 and 2 will be used by the 347 bus route, with Platforms 5 and 6 being used for the 219 and 347 routes outside The Corporation public house. Similar schemes will be rolled out at the following sites in Tameside:

  • Stalybridge railway station: nine platforms (five train and four bus platforms);
  • Hyde bus station: four platforms (two at Hyde Central station, two at Hyde bus station);
  • Newton (outside former Duke of Sussex pub): four platforms (two at Newton station, two at northbound and southbound 346 bus stops);
  • Droylsden town centre: five platforms (one at Villemomble Square, two on Manchester Road westbound and eastbound 216 bus stops and two tram platforms);
  • Denton, Crown Point: seven bus platforms on Stockport Road, Saxon Street, and Hyde Road;
  • Bottom Mossley: four bus platforms on Manchester Road and two rail platforms.

The most controversial Phase Three will see the grouping of Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge, and Hyde bus stations into the Tameside Interchange banner. Due for implementation in Spring 2023, Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange would be called Tameside Central Interchange. Stalybridge and Hyde bus stations will be called Tameside East Interchange and Tameside South Interchange respectively. Top Mossley’s collection of bus stops will be called Tameside North East Interchange.

The word on the street

Recent opinion polls have favoured Shapps’ simplification measures. Horace Studbuckle said “Anything that makes my journey easier is a Godsend. I can now tell my friends that the 346 has pulled into Platform 8c”. Freya Peacock said, “Everybody’s familiar with platforms. How many people are put off public transport by being confused by stands, platforms and stances?”

Pedro Hammell-Lehman wasn’t convinced: “Time and time again, there is always some policy wonk who claims to make catching a bus easier despite overcomplicating things.

“My dad remembers when they tried to change the 53 route into something like the 173. That was like stealing the Elgin Marbles. Adding bus stops and tram platforms to train platforms and calling them extra platforms is ludicrous.”

Florence Massine, in the queue at Williams’ stall on Ashton Market said “They are getting us ready for Ashton’s fifth bus station, which my friend is campaigning against in the Local Elections and – according to him – set for construction in 2030.”

Your opinions, please…

Would Shapps’ integrated transport plan get you back on the buses and trains, or have you on the trams? Are truly integrated platforms the answer, or do you think it’s another unworkable policy idea like Digital Railways and SMART Motorways? Feel free to air your views.

Public Consultation on the scheme will commence today. For the Ashton-under-Lyne Pilot Initiative Stopping Scheme, there will be public events at Ashton-under-Lyne Interchange (7th April), Dukinfield Town Hall (14th April), Hyde Town Hall (21st April), George Lawton Hall, Mossley (28th April), The Beehive, Droylsden (5th May), and Stalybridge Civic Hall (12th May).

S.V., 01 April 2022.

Manchester Piccadilly station image by G-13114, 2019.

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