A major new tram-train system could be coming down the line for Heywood after transport secretary Chris Grayling signalled his support for the expansion of the Metrolink in Greater Manchester.
The plans, which were outlined in TFGM's new 2040 transport strategy, could see Heywood become one of the few places in the UK to benefit from a new revolutionary tram-train system, which sees trams travel along existing railway tracks.
The proposal could see additional services on the Oldham/Rochdale Metrolink line, which would leave the Metrolink track between Newbold and Rochdale to travel along the existing Calder Valley heavy rail line between Rochdale railway station and Castleton, before continuing onto Heywood via the existing, but rarely used, Castleton spur rail track. Transport bosses believe there is potential for a service from Manchester to Castleton and Heywood, via Rochdale, every 12 minutes.
Plans are part of the 2nd draft of the Greater Manchester spatial framework (GMSF)
The plans were also outlined in the 2nd draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which proposes thousands of news jobs and homes across Rochdale.
Under the plan, which is currently out to public consultation, Heywood is set to play a major role in the borough's economic growth, with the Northern Gateway proposal, for employment space and homes on land between junctions 18 and 19 of the M62, representing the biggest new employment opportunity in Greater Manchester.
The council highlighted the huge potential of the Heywood proposal after Chris Grayling committed to exploring the expansion of Metrolink during a meeting with Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham on Friday, 25 January 2019.
Move would mean the return of light rail services to Heywood for the 1st time in more than 40 years
Councillor Phil Burke, transport spokesman for Rochdale Borough Council, said: "To see light rail passenger services returning to Heywood for the 1st time in over 40 years would be a great boost for our borough.
"With the withdrawal of direct bus services to Manchester and no rail or Metrolink connection, it's clear that Heywood is woefully underserved by public transport, and, with its role in our borough and its regeneration only set to grow, it's critical that this is addressed."
Project could be delivered by 2025
The council is currently working up a business case with Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM) for the Heywood tram-train proposal, with the potential for it to be delivered by 2025. If the project goes forward, the long term aim is for it to be extended to Bury to help serve the Northern Gateway proposal, outlined in the GMSF, for 1.2m square metres of new employment space and 1600 new homes at Heywood and Pilsworth.
Councillor John Blundell, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: "This proposal will be a game changer for Heywood and it's vital that it's given serious consideration by government.
"Not only will it better serve major employment sites like Heywood Distribution Park and Hareshill Business Park, if expanded to Bury, it could potentially open up the proposed Northern Gateway site, giving our residents the best opportunity to access the thousands of new jobs we aim to create in this economically critical area."
Proposals will complement major investment coming in through the £20 million junction 19 link road
The tram-train will also complement major investment already coming into Heywood through the new £20 million junction 19 link road. The Russell Homes scheme is set to create 1.5m square feet of new employment space, almost 3000 new jobs and 1000 new homes, alongside a new primary school. Expressions of interest are currently being invited for firms looking to construct the link road.
A bus route connecting Manchester to Heywood is set to be re-established and extended as part of the junction 19 scheme, with stops at Heywood Distribution Park, Hareshill Business Park, Bowlee Park and Birch village all set to be included.
Heywood is one of just 3 areas in the country being explored for tram-train pilots
The other locations that could be explored for tram-train pilots in Greater Manchester include Altrincham to Hale and Manchester Airport to Wilmslow.
In the longer term, Tram-train services could also run to Hazel Grove, Marple, Glossop, Wigan and Atherton, Warrington and between Cornbrook and Manchester Airport.