Portishead to Bristol railway line reopening – business case to be drawn up to keep project on track
By The Bristol Post | Thursday, April 18, 2013, 05:00
WORK is to start on drawing up a detailed business case for the re-opening of Portishead railway.
The old railway line has been cleared alongside the Pill to Portishead cycle path with a view to reopening the line; inset, North Somerset Council leader Nigel Ashton Picture: Jon Kent BRJK201304 17A-005
North Somerset Council is to work with Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) to draw up a detailed business case for rail improvements over the next ten years.
The work, costing an estimated £1.35 million, is to be jointly funding by the four councils with North Somerset earmarking £675,000 towards the project.
The funding will also be used to progress preparatory work for the engineering design of the new rail links.
The possible re-opening of the Portishead rail branch line would form part of the Great West Metro Phase One project, which would be the first of a host of major schemes identified to provide a range of improvements to the local rail network.
The project includes proposals for half-hourly train services for the re-opened Portishead line, Severn Beach line and local stations between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa. The total cost is estimated at between £45 million and £55million, and is expected to be funded from the Department for Transport subject to agreement of the proposed Local Transport Body.
North Somerset Council leader, Councillor Nigel Ashton, said: "This is a really major transport project which has the potential to have massive benefits, not just for North Somerset, but for the whole sub-region.
"We need to continue our efforts to move the project on sufficiently to secure the full approval and the necessary government funding.
"Any delay to this work would have a knock-on effect upon project timescales and costs.
"It is vital that we take a coherent and a credible approach to both the delivery and the operation of the line so that we can continue to present a strong case for the scheme to our funders and at future public inquiries.
"The process to secure the project is a lengthy one and dependent on a number of elements including funding approvals and planning powers.
"Authority to build and operate the project still needs to be gained.
"The process to secure planning powers is lengthy and requires the councils to set out a detailed evidence-based approach."
Work has already been carried out to clear three miles of the railway track to allow surveyors to assess the estimated costs of the work needed to re-open the line.
It is hoped that if Government funding is agreed for the project trains could be running out of Portishead again by 2017 and the Department for Transport is expected to make an announcement on funding later this year.
The work to re-open the town's railway would include re-laying the three miles of redundant track between Portishead and Portbury – purchased by North Somerset several years ago to protect it – and building a new station.
A new road bridge would be built over the railway at Quays Avenue in Portishead and a station would have to be built.
A site at Harbour Road was identified for a new railway station several years ago as part of the Portishead Quays development.
But council chiefs now say putting a station on this land has raised a number of challenges and other locations for the station need to be considered.
A search for alternative sites has been undertaken and three possible locations have now been shortlisted.
These include the site at Harbour Road, one at Quays Avenue and a further site on land on the edge of the town north of Moor Farm at Sheepway.