Greater Manchester made a bold statement last month by submitting its ‘Case for Change’ to the Department for Transport and placing transport at the core of its growth agenda. As part of this, the city is now pursuing ground-breaking plans to assume ownership of all of the regional railway stations in the future. The plans involve the transfer of ownership and management of Network Rail and other train operators to Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) by 2020s.
According to these reports, TfGM are hoping to take control of 94 local stations in the county over the next three years and the main three city centre stations will also eventually be under local management. This station devolution will create a platform for Manchester’s stations to reach their full potential and become even bigger assets for their local communities than they already are
Acting as community hubs, the vision for the local stations is to be customer-focused by offering a pleasant and complete journey which is better integrated with the wider national transport network. There have been suggestions that stations will include entertainment in the form of art galleries, concerts and theatre performances, which will provide many more people in the region with employment opportunities.
The transfer plans would act as a catalyst for helping local businesses to find their feet whilst also offering the community more amenities which promote wellbeing and happiness. Furthermore, it will improve Greater Manchester on a larger scale by helping to deliver the vision of constructing an additional 227,000 homes by 2035 as well as 119 housing units on underused lands around the station sites.
As an example, the previously boarded up and derelict Irlam station was transformed into a modern station in 2015 and is now a prime example of the change which is possible if there is a coherent plan. Passengers who pass through Irlam station can now enjoy a range of facilities weren’t previously available to them and the local community is suddenly less isolated than it once was.
With the Greater Manchester region showing great intent when it comes to economic growth, we can now hope that the newly-elected mayor will have the same vision and continue to push the plans forward for station devolution. If approved, ‘Case for Change’ will offer a long-term solution to investment and regional growth which other leaders in the past have struggled to do. The mayor faces the challenging task of putting the plan into action over the coming years and continuing the impressive growth Manchester has experienced in the last decade.
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