A NEW community hub is in the process of being created at Stalybridge Station.
Transport for Greater Manchester is working with Trans Pennine Express to develop a community facility at the railway station.
In essence it would be a partnership where the rail franchise provides the vacant space while TfGM and Tameside Council will support the social enterprises.
These could be pop-up schemes or something to be developed over the longer term. All the parties are very keen and the project is reported to be “progressing well”.
The scheme is not dependent on TfGM’s ‘Case for Change’, a plan to transform Greater Manchester’s rail stations into community hubs.
It has been made to the Department of Transport in a bid to secure a multi-million investment and bringing the county’s 94 rail stations, including Stalybridge, under local control.
The submission, that is still being assessed by the Government with a decision soon expected, has been made on behalf of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in line with the 2014 devolution agreement and 2040 Strategic Vision for Transport to drive economic growth and regeneration.
The detailed business case recommends the wholesale transfer of station ownership and management from Network Rail and train operators to Greater Manchester to help stations realise their full potential.
It sets out plans for long-term investment to enable local stations to act as community hubs, acting as a catalyst for local regeneration and social enterprises.
And following an ‘in principle’ Government agreement this summer, the local rail stations could transfer to Greater Manchester custodianship within the next two to three years.
Simon Elliott, from Transport For Greater Manchester, discussed the project to turn a redundant room at Stalybridge station into a community hub during a presentation to Stalybridge Town Council.
He described the building as a “bit of a tardis”, saying it may be available for community use from early winter.
Mr Elliott explained the Friends of Stalybridge Station would be able to tap into funds from the Community Rail Partnership.
He pointed out that in Marple, £10,000 was secured to create a community hub at the station.
The current model of station ownership does not generally allow for long-term development of facilities due to the short length of rail franchises.
If approved, more than £400 million would be invested in local stations over the next two decades, with potential to use related land assets for housing, commercial development and improved car parking.
Greater Manchester’s plans would act as a catalyst for social business initiatives that could see stations support local health and well-being by offering community gyms, cafes and health centres.
Station could also include art galleries, rooms for concerts, performing arts, festivals, weekend markets as well as space for offices and meetings, conferences, training and development.
Amanda White, TfGM’s Head of Rail, said: “Under the current system, Greater Manchester’s rail stations have not developed in line with customer expectations.
“This is an innovative approach that that would transform local stations into transport hubs that are well-used, offer a pleasant travel experience and improve quality of life by offering a useful asset for the local community.
“The recent redevelopment of Irlam rail station has already showcased how our vision can become a reality, demonstrating just what can be achieved when local stations realise their full social and economic potential.”
TfGM has been working with established industry experts who have worked on large scale social enterprises to develop an approach to realise its vision for Greater Manchester’s rail stations.