INDEPENDENT councillors have secured changes to a controversial public transport super-scheme.
They are hailing confirmation that Atherton’s connections to the multi-million-pound guided busway will now be located at both ends of town.
The local WIgan Independent Network (WIN) representatives have campaigned against the project and in favour of a heavy rail extension to Leigh.
But having lost this argument to the ruling Labour group, they can at least celebrate transport chiefs’ acceptance of their arguments about the location of the town’s stops on the high-tech Leigh to Manchester route. They will now be in Market Street - in the centre of the commercial community - with a final stop in Bag Lane.
Atherton WIN councillor Norman Bradbury said his group had joined forces with Atherton Business Partnership to successfully persuade Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) to relocate the stops to “where they should have been in the first place”.
The original proposal was for the final Atherton stop to be outside the Atherton Arms, and then to turn into Flapper Fold, commencing the return journey at the stop near the junction with Alma Street on Mealhouse Lane.
He said: “I have to congratulate Transport for Greater Manchester for listening to common sense, and attending the Atherton Business Partnership meeting when they announced their decision to relocate the bus stops. The only other matter that has still to be addressed is the issue of parking and we have suggested various solutions.”
Coun Bradbury is proposing restricted waiting times on the existing car parks, with a penalty after three hours to discourage people from all-day parking while the drivers use the guided busway to spend the day in Manchester.
This would also allay concerns of businesses on Market Street about the future availability of spaces for their customers.
Another solution, he said, may be to introduce an area for business-only permit parking.
Vice-chairman of the TfGM committee with oversight of bus issues, Atherleigh Labour councillor Mark Aldred welcomed the route as giving “the best possible access to the centre.
“Looking at the new route for the busway through Atherton, you can really get a feel for the benefits the service will have for local residents and businesses. When the service launches next year it will give direct access to shopping and jobs right across the centre.
“There will be a reliable, high-quality bus service at least every 15 minutes Monday to Saturday, which will provide opportunities to improve access to jobs, leisure and retail destinations. I’m pleased to see TfGM responding so positively to the wishes of local people.”