Andy Burnham says Manchester are “forced to accept second best” after touring to highlight the condition of the city’s central stations. Greater Manchester Mayor Mr Burnham told the Manchester Evening News he wanted to take control of all the stations in the area.
He challenged the government to invest in them urgently – in particular the five Manchester Piccadilly, Victoria, Oxford Road, Deansgate and Salford Central stations which he described as unsafe and embarrassing – or he says he will demand that they be handed over at the next devolution talks.
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He has now denounced what he sees as chronic underinvestment in central stations, in a video tour of them. Network Rail and the Department for Transport (DfT) have both defended their investment record.
But during the video, Mr Burnham said investment in Manchester’s stations lags behind that of other big cities like London.
He reserved particular ire at the condition of Salford Central station, just across the border from the River Irwell in the city centre, which he described as ‘third best’. Billboards with out-of-order stickers, plastic fencing and parts of the station looking tired and in disrepair are also shown during the video, as is a woman struggling to climb onto a train.
Mr Burnham says it is ‘not a station people can use’ if they have mobility issues. Rail bosses insist he will get an upgrade next year.
However, he also accused the government of pursuing a ‘cut price’ option to redevelop Piccadilly, which urgently needed upgrading before the HS2 train and Northern Powerhouse arrived in the town.
He was accompanied by the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester and the Mayor of Salford, Paul Dennett, on the tour, also visiting other stations such as Salford Crescent and Oxford Road. “That’s true of all the Manchester city center stations, if you go around them, Salford Central, Deansgate, Oxford Road, Piccadilly, they’ve barely seen any investment, none of them,” said Mr Burnham.
“The stations can’t keep up with the growth of the city. They’re like outliers in the city now, aren’t they. Then you look at Piccadilly with HS2, and the government is still trying to make the case of the discounted option to Manchester Piccadilly.
“And that can’t be true. When you look at what’s been spent on other cities, particularly London, in terms of mainline stations, there’s just been a tremendous amount of investment, rightly so, during many years. We’re always forced to accept second or third best when it comes to Salford Central and the message we’re sending today is enough is enough.
“You need to invest in these stations and give us the right solution for HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail at Manchester Piccadilly.”
In response, a Network Rail spokesperson said: ‘Network Rail, the rail operating companies, the Department for Transport, Greater Manchester Transport and the Mayor’s Office are working side by side as part of the alliance. Greater Manchester stations chasing the public and private funding to improve the customer experience for passengers.
“From January next year, during a five-month overhaul, Salford Central will see its canopies and platforms renewed. This will be followed by new step-free access to Walkden, Daisy Hill, Irlam and Swinton stations.
“A new mobility lounge will also be built in Manchester Piccadilly this summer, and proposals for improved facilities at Manchester Piccadilly, Victoria and Manchester International Airport stations, as well as the refurbishment and refurbishment of Manchester Oxford Road , were announced in March.”
A DfT spokesperson said: “We have invested £84m for rail passengers in Manchester and the North West this year, reducing delays and increasing the reliability of trains in Greater Manchester and the North.
“We are also building new partnerships between Great British Railways and local government, to give local leaders greater influence over the way the railways are run in their area and more control over local stations.”