The Manchester Metrolink line from Rochdale to East Didsbury was completed in 2013. From central Manchester to East Didsbury, the line uses most of the alignment of the Manchester South District Railway, which ran from Manchester Central to Stockport Tiviot Dale.
Railways in the Stockport area before 1978 | Author: Rcsprinter123

Railways in the Stockport area before 1978 | Source: Wikipedia | Author: Rcsprinter123 | Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (view license) | Overlay by Reopen
Map showing East Didsbury and Stockport

© OpenStreetMap contributors | OpenStreetMap copyright notice | View context map
Since 2004, there have been various plans to create a short Metrolink extension linking East Didsbury to Stockport (the distance is about four miles), but these have failed through lack of funding.

The most recent of these proposals, “to reinstate the East Didsbury to Stockport line” was submitted to the Department for Transport Restoring Your Railway Fund, possibly by Stockport Council and Transport for Greater Manchester (see below). An award from this fund enables a scheme promoter to make progress towards developing a business case. The proposal was not among those selected to receive funding.

Extending the Metrolink line beyond East Didsbury to Stockport would be a challenging undertaking. The remaining section of the former railway alignment has been lost. Cuttings have been filled in, Station Road in Heaton Mersey has been extended over the alignment, the northern part of Heaton Mersey industrial Estate now covers it, and the tunnels beneath Wellington Road and Dodge Hill are unusable,. Even if that were not so, the location of the desired terminus is not Tiviot Dale but Stockport Interchange, which is currently under construction close to Stockport railway station and the bus station.

In short, “the East Didsbury to Stockport line” cannot be reinstated as it no longer exists. Without the deployment of tram-trains, any future Metrolink extension will require on-street running between East Didsbury tram stop and Stockport Interchange. At least one bridge will be needed, spanning the River Mersey, with possibly a second bridge where the line crosses the M60.

Alongside the possibility of a Bolton extension, a speculated Stopfordian¹ extension was floated prior to last year’s General Election. It is anticipated that the Stockport extension would follow most of the former East Didsbury – Tiviot Dale line. Standing in the way are industrial units off Station Road in Heaton Mersey and (to some extent) the M60 motorway. This could be alleviated with some on-street operation on Craig Road and Didsbury Road.

Source text: Metrolink Extensions: Where Next? by Stuart Vallentine, on East of the M60 website.
¹ A Stopfordian is a person who comes from or lives in Stockport. Here, it means Stockport-bound.
Map showing possible route of East Didsbury Metrolink extension to Stockport | Credit: John McCarthy

2012 map showing possible route of East Didsbury Metrolink extension to Stockport
View source (John McCarthy on Flickr)

Stockport Council and Transport for Greater Manchester are set to request between £500m and £1bn from the Government to deliver an extension of the Metrolink line from East Didsbury to the town centre. The Government has previously signalled its support in principle for the extension of the network, when the Greater Manchester Combined Authority released its ambitions to expand the Metrolink, potentially using tram-trains, alongside the rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework last January. TfGM and the council have already paved the way for trams to integrate with other transport networks in Stockport; the £120m redevelopment of Stockport Interchange due to start on site this year factors in a Metrolink route and stop, and is backed by £40m of Government Growth Fund money. Stockport Council and TfGM will now work up a business case for the Metrolink extension, which is set to cost between £500m and £1bn, and will also request Government grant the necessary transport planning powers at the same time as the funding. If funding is granted, a start on site could begin by 2025.

Source: Stockport prepares £1bn Metrolink bid, by Jessica Middleton-Pugh, on Place North West website (January 2020).

Extending beyond Stockport to Ashton and Manchester Victoria

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 beyond Stockport through Reddish South and Denton over the current National Rail line, joining the Ashton – Eccles Metrolink line to form an orbital route.

View map full size

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
Read more about the proposed Ashton – Stockport reopening

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

Beeching Reversal – East Didsbury – Stockport, on The Anonymous Widower website

Four in race for £120m Stockport Interchange, by Charlie Schouten, on Place North West website (October 2019)

Manchester South District Railway – Wikipedia

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

Metrolink Extension discussion forum on Skyscraper City

Metrolink Extensions: Where Next? by Stuart Vallentine, on East of the M60 website

Old maps of Stockport area on Old-Maps.co.uk website

Revealed: Stockport train station’s multi-million pound transformation plans, by Todd Fitzgerald, on Manchester Evening News website (2016)

Stockport prepares £1bn Metrolink bid, by Jessica Middleton-Pugh, on Place North West website (January 2020)