Andy Burnham has announced ambitious plans to bring Metrolink to Stockport by the end of the decade.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester hopes that work will begin to extend the line from East Didsbury to the city’s new transport interchange by 2025.
Burnham also announced that Lord Bob Kerslake, a former civil service chief and chairman of the UK2070 commission, will replace him as chairman of the board of the Mayoral Development Corporation (MDC), the vehicle that drives regeneration in central Stockport.
The heads of councils and transport will now develop a “profile business case” to bring Metrolink “to the heart” of the city center.
It comes after Secretary of Transport Grant Shapps hinted that cash could be made available to extend the Metrolink to Stockport during the general election campaign.
And Burnham believes that Lord Kerslake’s leadership could prove invaluable in an attempt to secure the funding required – ranging from £ 500 to £ 1 billion – by the government.
Addressing a city center event, he said: “These are great ambitions, but we believe that the creation of the MDC – the first to be focused on a city center – is the vehicle to make it a reality.”
An MDC has powers that allow it to acquire, develop and dispose of land and properties – and the Mayor believes that these will allow leaders to “speed up the regeneration of the city center.”
He added: “We believe that the development of the MDC could speed up the construction of Metrolink here by providing the extra powers necessary to reduce the time spent in developing the program, we believe that work could begin by 2025.
“It’s a big challenge, but we’re throwing it on the board to continue developing this work in collaboration with the board and Greater Manchester. But we’ll never have a better opportunity than this.”
The mayor added that the early completion of the Trafford Park line had sent a message to the government that he could have trusted the city region to deliver and deliver earlier than expected.
“You may have that the people of the northern infrastructure speak very quickly, we can do it correctly and we believe that conditions are now available to bring Metrolink to Stockport within the decade.
“And I can’t wait to see if we can develop a plan to do it exactly.”
The MDC focuses on creating the region’s “newest, greenest and freshest urban neighborhood” in what has been dubbed Stockport Town Center West.
Burnham says this reinforces the district’s request for Metrolink funding, as it relates to a number of government priorities – from building new homes on abandoned sites near public transportation to revitalizing city centers.
And he believes there is no one better than “exceptional candidate” Lord Kerslake to steer the ship – a man he describes as “one of the heaviest names in British public service”.
“This is in line with what you can imagine, and I hope the government will see the strength of it,” said Burnham.
Stockport board leader Elise Wilson, who has long asked to extend the Metrolink, said she was “absolutely satisfied” with the announcement.
He said: “It will be a huge opportunity to truly position ourselves on the national and international map and it really shows that our ambition for the MDC to become a model of how regeneration is done in a city center.”
We have a dedicated Facebook page that offers you all the latest news, events and community news in Stockport.
To keep up to date on everything that is happening in Stockport and to participate in the discussion, follow the page here.
And you can also follow us on chirping.
Coun Wilson, who hailed the appointment of Lord Kerslake as “a real coup” – also stressed the importance of transportation infrastructure to “truly unlock” the regeneration of the MDC area.
In a statement, Lord Kerslake said it was “exciting times” for Stockport and Greater Manchester – and was happy to take on his new role as MDC president.
He said: “I was impressed with the scope of the ambition that Andy Burnham, the Stockport and Homes England board has for the area and I am very encouraged by the development that has taken place so far in Stockport.
“Participating in the MDC at this stage gives me the opportunity to use my expertise and experience to help shape the next phase of Stockport’s journey and offer a truly exceptional regeneration initiative that will make Stockport an even more attractive place to live, work and play. “