Some issues are decided both locally and nationally and one of these is our local rail services, with decisions being taken both by councillors on the Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority and Ministers in Whitehall.
Walkden is currently the only area in Greater Manchester without heavy rail services on Sundays. At this time of year, when many people want to do their Christmas shopping and visit other attractions, there is a real demand for Sunday rail services.
Walkden is lucky to have an excellent community group, the Friends of Walkden Station, who have made the re-introduction of Sunday services on the Wigan-Manchester line through Walkden a priority. In support of their work, I have been campaigning on this issue for some time. Recently, I asked Rail Minister, Chris Mole, to organise a meeting with me and Northern Rail’s Managing Director, Heidi Mottram. In our meeting, it was clear that both Northern Rail and the Department for Transport supported the proposals.
Re-introducing Sunday Rail services through Walkden would require a subsidy from the Transport Authority. The amount needed can be reduced because the Department for Transport can forego receipts due from Northern Rail for operating the new service.
The difficulty now is that councillors on the Transport Authority are dragging their feet and may not agree to introduce the new service. They did appear keen to support it in the summer and even approved the proposal at one of their meetings, but since then they have gone quiet.
The Transport Authority have already subsidised Sunday rail services on the Manchester-Stalybridge and Huddersfield-Manchester lines. The people of Walkden and surrounding areas deserve the same level of support for their rail services on Sundays.
I have campaigned for these new services both locally and in Westminster. It is now up to the councillors on the Transport Authority. I urge them to support the proposal for Sunday services through Walkden station at their meeting on 4th December. They will be letting down local people if they fail to support the proposal now.