Three Manchester MPs, Andrew Gwynne (Denton), Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) and Navendu Mishra (Stockport), have submitted a plan to the Department for Transport Restoring Your Railway Fund in which they propose extending the Rochdale – East Didsbury line (view Reopen entry for East Didsbury – Stockport line) beyond Stockport through Reddish South and Denton over the current National Rail tracks, joining the Ashton – Eccles Metrolink line at Ashton Moss to form an orbital route.
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Proposed Manchester Metrolink orbital route | Enlarge
Map created by Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) based on OpenStreetMap data and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license | View license
The proposal was not among those selected to receive funding.

In their submission to the DfT, the three MPs offered a second option: the restoration of a full public transport railway service over most of the Stockport – Stalybridge line, which currently carries a parliamentary train, once a week in each direction, run by Northern, with intermediate stations at Reddish South, Denton, and Guide Bridge.

The proposed service would operate between Stockport and Manchester Victoria, calling at Reddish South and Denton, bypassing Guide Bridge and Ashton-under-Lyne. But what if the heavy rail proposal was just an Aunt Sally designed to highlight the relative benefits of a tram scheme? The three MPs may prefer the tram scheme to the heavy rail option for some or all of these reasons:

  1. In 2018/19, Denton was identified as the least used station in Great Britain, tying with Stanlow and Thornton. Reddish South was ranked the third least used station (source: Denton railway station – Wikipedia). However, this may be because of the very limited train service.
  2. Angela Rayner is the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, and no provision for a second Ashton station was made in the heavy rail proposal.
  3. Congestion at Heaton Norris Junction. “A more frequent service was considered for the 2008 timetable shakeup, which was designed to implement major changes to service patterns on the West Coast Main Line; however, because of the track layout and congestion at Heaton Norris, operational analysis suggests that timetabling the move across Heaton Norris is very likely to be problematic. Performance could be impacted by the crossing move at Heaton Norris Junction. If there are two passenger trains an hour on this line, it will be more difficult to hold freight trains on the Denton line, additionally affecting performance.” Source: Denton railway station – Wikipedia. The tram scheme circumvents this constraint by deploying street running from north of Heaton Norris Junction through to Stockport Interchange and possibly to East Didsbury then onwards to Manchester Victoria and Rochdale. However, there is no UK example of tram-trains and freight trains sharing the same track, as far as we know.
    Perhaps in an effort to address this and related issues, a  scheme proposing the redoubling of the line between Heaton Junction and Denton Junction has been submitted to the Department for Transport Restoring Your Railway Fund with a view to gaining Round 2 funding. As at 16 October 2020, successful Round 2 proposals have not yet been announced.
Map: Stockport to Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne

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Map showing Ashton-under-Lyne station

© OpenStreetMap contributors | OpenStreetMap copyright notice | View context map

Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, has formally submitted a proposal to the Restoring Your Railway Fund for a passenger service from Stockport to Ashton-under-Lyne, stopping at Reddish South and Denton. With the support of Transport for Greater Manchester and Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council, Gwynne has submitted a proposal to expand and upgrade the line between Heaton Norris Junction in Stockport and Guide Bridge/Ashton Moss Junction. Trains would stop at Reddish South and Denton stations, which would both be upgraded. The route would form part of an orbital rail route between Stockport and Tameside, something that Greater Manchester is currently lacking.

Source: Gwynne bids for Ashton to Stockport rail line stopping in Denton and Reddish (February 2020).

TfGM has listened, and have drawn up two technical bids in my sponsorship which I’ve submitted under Government’s Restoring Your Railway Fund. One is for rail services between Stockport and Victoria using Reddish South and Denton and the second is for a Metrolink tram service using the same line but with a spur at Ashton Moss to join the tram line to Manchester. Southbound there’s an opportunity to have a spur at Heaton Norris and a short section of on-Street track down Wellington Road into the new interchange (which could then link directly into the proposed East Didsbury link providing an orbital service linking Stockport and Manchester in a loop).

Source: Stockport MP’s column: Railways should go back to future, on In Your Area website.
Part of Andrew Gwynne et al’s submission to DfT Restoring Your Railway Fund. Source: Andrew Gwynne on Twitter (@GwynneMP), 12 June 2020

Part of Andrew Gwynne et al’s submission to DfT Restoring Your Railway Fund. Source: Andrew Gwynne on Twitter (@GwynneMP), 12 June 2020 | View Twitter post

Overview of Greater Manchester reopening schemes

Read about Gamesley station Read about the Rose Hill Marple – Hazel Grove line Read about Golburne station Read about Kenyon Junction station Read about the Altrincham – Stockport line Read about the Glazebrook Junction – Skelton Junction line Read about the East Didsbury – Stockport line Read about the Manchester Victoria – Ashton – Stockport line Read about the Oldham Mumps – Greenfield line Read about the Bury – Heywood – Rochdale line Read about the Bury – Rawtenstall line Read about the Bolton – Bury line Read about the Bolton – Radcliffe line Read about the Bolton – Walkden line

Further reading

1898 map (large scale) of Stalybridge and Ashton-under-Lyne showing all Ashton stations

Denton railway station – Wikipedia

East Didsbury – Stockport line – Reopen

The Great Manchester Gyratory: An orbital tram line for Manchester, by Peter White, on CityMetric website (January 2019—includes interesting and useful maps)

Gwynne bids for Ashton to Stockport rail line stopping in Denton and Reddish, on the website of Andrew Gwynne MP (February 2020)

Mayor of Greater Manchester calls on Government to help fast track Metrolink to Stockport, on Stockport Council website (January 2020)

Proposals for new rail link between Ashton and Stockport, on the Quest Media Network website (June 2020)

Reddish South railway station – Wikipedia

Stockport MP’s column: Railways should go back to future, on In Your Area website

Stockport–Stalybridge line – Wikipedia