Date published: 13 May 2009

Union Street U-turn for Metrolink

Another day, another historic decision for Oldham’s tram service as Greater Manchester council leaders finally agreed to run Metrolink into the heart of Oldham.

The good news was brokered after four days of intense behind-the-scenes talks by council leader Howard Sykes, chief executive Charlie Parker and transport spokesman, Councillor Richard Knowles.

Councillor Sykes today hailed the “historic” agreement for the £84 million scheme, the centrepiece of the borough’s regeneration plans.

On Friday, the project was placed bottom of priorities in a report to leaders of all 10 Greater Manchester authorities, and the town centre line looked doomed.

But Councillor Sykes said that for the first time in its history, the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities’ executive adjourned that meeting without a decision and reconvened yesterday.

He said: “We have looked at different ways of funding things which has put town centre trams back on the list.

“It involved myself and the nine leaders of local councils, and parallel talks among chief executives by Charlie Parker.

“Sometimes more things are achieved behind the scenes than by grandstanding.”

Work has already been approved to run trams on Oldham’s existing rail line, but missing out the town centre.

Now they will run down Union Street — funded by £84 million from top slicing the region’s Local Transport Plan money and ring-fencing cash from the levy that all councils pay for public transport.

Councillor Sykes added: “To finally get trams running down Union Street is simply fantastic news for this borough. This has the potential to transform Oldham into an aspirational 21st century town and send out the message that we are open for business.”

Councillor Knowles, chairman of the Greater Manchester development committee responsible for Metrolink, said: “I am thrilled to bits. I will be on the first tram to run through Oldham.”

Oldham’s Tory leader, Councillor Jack Hulme, said: “For the last two years Oldham Conservatives have campaigned to have Metrolink brought in its entirety to Oldham via the town centre, but without the imposition of a congestion charge.

“Today’s news represents an enormous step forward and we will play our part in whatever is necessary to bring about this transformation.”