The Mancunian Way: A coherent plan, please

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It was announced yesterday that plans to build two new platforms at Manchester’s Piccadilly station were pulled by Network Rail in favour of seeking out alternative options - something which Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham says he only discovered at the very last minute as the decision was made public

Rail minister Huw Merriman has unveiled £72m worth of upgrades to the region's railways, but the previously announced plans for platforms 15 and 16 at Picadilly will not be included after being deemed ‘hugely expensive’ and ‘incredibly disruptive’. The Department for Transport (DfT) has said that withdrawing the plans ‘will enable all options to be considered'.

"If you just stand at Manchester Piccadilly and imagine the disruption that would be necessary to build two new platforms alongside the two that are there now,” Network Rail’s North West managing director Tim Shoveller told Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Timan[2].

Minister of State for Transport Huw Merriman MP visits Manchester's Victoria Station to announce an additional £72 million to boost train servIces in Manchester and the north. © Anthony Moss Minister of State for Transport Huw Merriman MP visits Manchester's Victoria Station to announce an additional £72 million to boost train servIces in Manchester and the north.

"It would be the most incredible feat of engineering,” he added. “No one in Manchester would thank us for building that right now. It is not the priority."

Instead, part of the funding will be spent on a third platform at Salford Crescent station, improvements to existing platforms at Manchester's Victoria station and new 'turnback tracks' to help reduce delays, bottlenecks and overcrowding at stations.

Manchester’s leaders say that while the funding will be worthwhile, there are still fears that the city’s rail capacity issues will still remain. We’ll be getting on to their reactions in a moment, whilst today’s Mancunian Way will also be looking at a struggling food and drink haven, taxi fares, and future tram woes for Parklife fans.

The here and now

The government recently agreed to give Greater Manchester more control over its railways under a new devolution deal. During the talks over the trailblazer agreement, Labour mayor Andy Burnham argued that the five stations in the city centre require urgent investment.

The deal now gives him more influence over local train services which he plans to integrate into his London-style public transport system – the Bee Network.

Speaking about the £72m funding into the north’s railways, Mr Burnham said[3] he welcomed the package but feared it would not fully address the existing problems with rail capacity.

Minister of State for Transport Huw Merriman MP visits Manchester's Victoria Station to announce an additional £72 million to boost train servIces in Manchester and the north. © Anthony Moss Minister of State for Transport Huw Merriman MP visits Manchester's Victoria Station to announce an additional £72 million to boost train servIces in Manchester and the north.

He explained: "What we need is a coherent plan for the railways in Manchester city centre because as long as it isn't solved, it will mean misery for people here and it will mean misery for people across the North – it's not good enough."

Mr Burnham, who met the rail minister at Victoria station, said he was sceptical about the 'new approach'.

He said: "What I would say to [the minister] is, don't take a plan off the table if you've not got another one to put back on because people, particularly in the North when it comes to railways, will just be suspicious about that."

Manchester council leader Bev Craig added that congestion on the Castlefield Corridor still needs to be addressed and demanded an urgent plan to fix the long-term problem which she said 'clogs up' the whole of the North West.

Speaking about the funding package, rail minister Huw Merriman said: "The investment is coming here to the North. It's just important we focus on the here and now and the changes that will really impact passengers right now as well as these longer term projects which we're committed to delivering."

He added: "In the future, we will of course be looking at Piccadilly station because Piccadilly is going to be home of Northern Powerhouse Rail and HS2."

'If one falls, we all fall'

Ramsbottom town centre has been hit by a series of restaurant and cafe closures © Manchester Evening News Ramsbottom town centre has been hit by a series of restaurant and cafe closures

The former mill town of Ramsbottom has been transformed in recent years into a foodie haven with people making an effort to visit the area’s well-loved independent bars, shops and restaurants.

But, following a series of departures, the situation is now far from ideal. Several beloved establishments - including The Chocolate Café and Spanish restaurant duo Levanter and Baratxuri - have closed in recent weeks and residents fear further casualties are only around the corner.

The Chocolate Cafe’s owner Philip Hargreaves said the cost of living crisis was 'hitting us at both ends’, whilst Levanter’s owners Fiona and Joe Botham said their energy bills had risen from £18,000 a year to a staggering £55,000 a year.

Last week, gift shop Hearts for Homes announced it would be reducing its opening hours due to a drop in footfall. Speaking to M.E.N reporter Thomas George[4], owner Kerry Khan said that 'difficult decisions' would need to be made ahead of the summer when the store’s lease is up for renewal.

"If I'm looking at it from a business point of view, I don't think there is any doubt that I would not renew it," she said. "It scares me to do it. Right now, the future looks quite scary.

"Since Christmas, it's been very quiet. In the past you might have had a couple of bad days but it was a blip. That's now become the norm. There's not as many people in Ramsbottom. I'm aware people might have less money to spend and that's certainly a factor."

Kerry Khan, the owner of Hearts for Homes in Ramsbottom © Manchester Evening News Kerry Khan, the owner of Hearts for Homes in Ramsbottom

Like Levanter’s owners, Kerry says her energy bills continue to rise and has even now taken to turning the heating off inside the shop in a bid to save on money. "I guess I just have to hope that things will get better," she said.

"When I opened the shop, I thought this is a great place because there is lots of things going on and great footfall. That has changed so much. If you were looking at opening a shop in Ramsbottom now, I don't think you would do it."

Nicola Murphy-Lunn runs restaurant and bar Ramsbottom Social with wife Jo, and the pair say that while the business has managed to make a name for itself, energy bills have soared while the price of fresh food produce has doubled.

"If we increased our food prices to the ratio of the actual cost, we would have no customers," Nicola explained. "Everybody is watching their purse strings."

She added: "People say another business closing makes us more busy. Does it really? Having the likes of Levanter, Baratxuri, the Chocolate Café gave people a great offering.

"If places close, it's going to make the town less appealing. Ramsbottom is a great night out, but if one falls, we all kind of fall."

She said she wanted to see the government offering small businesses more support with energy bills, as well reducing VAT. She also encouraged people to support local businesses when they could.

"These things are crippling," she said. "When small businesses close, people lose their jobs so unemployment rises. It's a domino effect."

£500k a week

Councils across Greater Manchester are splashing more than half a million pounds each week on taxis to take children to and from school.

The figures were revealed as part of analysis by The Northern Agenda politics newsletter and found that nearly 4,600 pupils have taxis to school paid for by their local authorities amid fears that free school transport services are at “breaking point”.

It is believed the costs are caused in part by an increase in the number of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) who need to go to specialist schools which are often outside the local council's boundaries. Rising fuel prices, wages and inflation are also contributing towards the sky-high costs.

In Greater Manchester nine of the region's ten councils responded to Freedom of Information Requests, with only Rochdale refusing to provide details of its spend.

The weekly amount spent on taxis for school pupils in Manchester © Marianna Longo The weekly amount spent on taxis for school pupils in Manchester

The total weekly bill was £582,834 for 4,611 children, with 721 pupils getting taxis to school outside their local authority area. The biggest spending Greater Manchester authority was Stockport at £138,515, though the highest number of pupils was 1,161 in Salford.

A Stockport council spokesperson said: “We have a legal duty to assist pupils to and from school when they are not able to or safely do so on account of their special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

"Stockport has experienced increased demand for travel assistance as a direct result of an increase in both the number of children in Stockport with SEND but also the complexity of the needs they present.

"This is reflective of the increased demand for travel assistance both regionally and nationally. The assistance we offer is tailored to meet the needs of each pupil and is offered through cooperation with the child or young person, their parents and professionals working with the family."

Strike it

'In most cases collisions on Metrolink are due to motorists not paying attention' © Eddie Garvey 'In most cases collisions on Metrolink are due to motorists not paying attention'

Metrolink staff have confirmed they will strike for two days on the weekend of the Parklife festival at Heaton Park.

Unite, the trade union for Metrolink staff, said that a two-day walkout will go ahead over the weekend of June 10 and 11. The M.E.N's Ethan Davies reports that[6] union members voted to take action ‘following a woeful pay offer from the company’.

Alongside Parklife, the strike action is likely to also lead to disruption to other events including Soccer Aid at Old Trafford, Roger Waters at the AO Arena and The Weeknd's show at the Etihad Stadium.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Our members at Metrolink are frontline workers who play a vital role in keeping Manchester moving. It is incomprehensible that Metrolink thinks it is in any way acceptable to further suppress their pay when workers are struggling with a cost of living crisis.

“Unite is now entirely dedicated to defending and enhancing the jobs, pay and conditions of its members and the workforce at Metrolink will receive the union’s unflinching support.”

TfGM previously said that should any strike action go ahead then services will not operate as a result.

"We will now engage with Unite to see if it will be possible to avert strike action," Rob Cox, HR Director at operator KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM), said.

Flower power

The Manchester Flower Festival returns to the city centre for 2023. Running until May 29, there will be floral installations, live music and entertainment dotted around the city.

This display of Coronation Street's Hilda Ogden can be found in St. Ann's Square at the Royal Exchange.

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Weather etc

Temperatures: Sunny changing to cloudy by nighttime. 22C.

Road closures: M67 Eastbound entry slip road closed due to long-term roadworks at J2 A57 Hyde Road (Denton). Until 1st December 2025.

Trivia question: The name Ramsbottom is believed to derive from two Old English words 'ramm' and 'botm', but what does the name mean?

Manchester headlines

  • Weekend: It’s Bank Holiday weekend! If you’re looking for things to do then What’s On Editor Jenna Campbell and What’s On reporter Ben Arnold have rounded out their top suggestions in the city. Click here[8].

  • Warm: The weather in Greater Manchester for the next week ahead is set to be great. We’re expected to have mainly sunny days and highs of 21C. Details here[9].

  • Pulp: Britpop band Pulp will be playing a huge show at Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl this July. It will mark the first time the Jarvis Cocker-fronted band have played in Manchester in 22 years. More here.[10]

  • Jewellery: A man has been arrested after £200,000 worth of jewellery was stolen from a business in Middleton.

Worth a read

A now abandoned North Manchester building was once home to a bizarre club that was 'like walking into a horror movie' full of upturned crucifixes and decapitated heads.

The Hellfire Club near Queens Park, which opened in 2007, featured Manchester's deepest dungeon and also served cocktails such as Dead Man Walking, which was served from blood-smeared goblets.

Speaking about the venue, one reviewer posted online: "I honestly kept expecting to see the ghosts of Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price around each new corner.

"There are stone dungeon walls covered with bleeding monster heads, elaborately carved beams and cabinets, barred Victorian-style windows, randomly-placed coffin lids, glass jars filled with fingers and eyeballs, and lurking skeletons in every nook and cranny."

Sounds fairly normal. You can

That's all for today

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The answer to today's trivia question is: Valley of the ram.


  1. ^ right here (
  2. ^ told Local Democracy Reporter Joseph Timan (
  3. ^ Mr Burnham said (
  4. ^ Speaking to M.E.N reporter Thomas George (
  5. ^