Executive Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn

Kieran Quinn's Blog  

Councillor Kieran Quinn

Ashton station: All change!

Friday, 07 July 2017

If you read this blog often you’ll know that I’m passionate about seeing investment in our local infrastructure. That’s why, despite the short term inconvenience it will cause, I welcome the closure for upgrades this Saturday of the railway station in Ashton-under-Lyne. Scheduled to be shut for three weeks, the station is set to undergo major engineering works as part of the £1 billion Great North Rail Project.

The most significant element of the works due to take place is the rebuilding of the railway bridge over Turner Lane. Indeed, local people will have seen that Turner Lane under the station has been closed for some time already. The rebuilding of this bridge is to provide a bed for new, straighter, railway lines.

You would be forgiven for asking why we would go to the expense of rebuilding an entire bridge just to get a straighter railway line. The station has been open since 1846 and so what has changed? It’s certainly something I wondered about when I was first told of the closure.

Well here’s the technical bit. The railway corridor that Ashton sits within is very narrow and as such the track curves much more frequently than many other railway lines. The number of curves limits the speed at which trains can travel and ultimately the frequency at which it is possible to run trains on the line. With patronage on local rail services increasing and demand expected to continue rising, these improvements are essential to keep pace with the services that will be required on this line in the future.

Now make no mistake, this investment is welcome. But had it not been for the “pause” of the electrification works by Network Rail back in 2015 we would have been far further down the road than we are presently and been looking forward to improved railway services arriving much sooner.

We must also continue to press for the other improvements that are so badly needed to rail services in Ashton, Tameside and the wider region. I’m talking about replacement of the ancient “pacer” trains (buses on a train chassis built in the 80s when British Rail was being starved of cash). Whilst a straighter line may mean that passengers won’t have to endure as much screeching as the train negotiates fewer curves on the journey to Manchester, it won’t change the fact that they’re sat (or more likely stood) on a vehicle that should’ve been scrapped 20 years ago.

Then of course there is the question of when High Speed Rail will finally arrive in the North. The Northern Powerhouse (remember that?) did include the possibility of an east-west high speed rail link, though the silence on this matter has been deafening for some time. This is despite the influential think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research, urging the government to prioritise an east-west link over the north-south HS2 link, in order to release the potential of the Northern economy.

And so, whilst there is much more required to bring our transport infrastructure up to the standard that we should be able to expect in the 21st century, the improvements taking place at Ashton this month are a welcome start. If you are a user of Ashton-under-Lyne railway station, details of the closure and alternative arrangements can be found here.

Posted by: Kieran Quinn

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