Existing railway line
The railway line still exists from Bristol to Portishead, and has been refurbished for freight use at a cost of £21 million, but it is only open as far as Royal Portbury Docks. The remaining 3.25 miles would need to be reinstated. Some land has been reserved by the council for the site of a new station in Portishead and a car park has already been built for it adjacent to the Waitrose car park.
The A369 is Portishead’s main access route to Bristol and to the M5.
Large numbers of local residents travelling to work in Bristol and South Glocs use the very busy junction 19 on the M5, used also by traffic to and from the Royal Portbury Docks. Many more travel the other way into Portishead in the morning. Though the junction has recently been improved, even small accidents on the Avonmouth bridge can still cause major gridlock. The area around this junction is an air pollution hotspot. Some potential new employers are being put off moving to Portishead due to the transport problems.
The official bus time varies from 1 hr. 2 mins. to 1hr. 15 mins. from Portishead to Temple Meads or 50 mins. to 1 hr. 8 mins. to the Bus station. Of course, these are best times which can be much greater when there is any problem. The 2010 GRIP 3 report (see News 18 Oct 2010) specifies a journey time to Temple Meads on the re-opened line of just 17 minutes. Rail would be much less prone to problems than the roads.
Park and Ride
A Park and Ride facility (i.e ride on the railway!) has been mooted by North Somerset Council by the railway at Portbury which could bring extra patronage to the railway from motorists from a wide area commuting into Bristol. A bus Park and Ride would be bad news as it would weaken the case for the railway. As mentioned above, a car park has already been built in Portishead, adjacent to the Waitrose car park, which was used for the temporary Harbourside surgery.
Congestion charging has been considered for Bristol. This would surely require attractive public transport alternatives to be provided. Reopening this railway is one of the most obvious and effective answers.
Government funding is needed, which has always been the biggest hurdle, and the Government needs to see that local councils and the local community is fully supportive. Re-opening of the railway was advocated by the 4 local councils in their Joint Local Transport Plan.
Greater Western Franchise
The current Franchise covering the railways in the region, which started on April 1 2006, ended in 2013, but an extension has been arranged, and the competition for a new franchise has been postponed. The Portishead line is part of the requirements for a future franchise.
Railways are generally recognised as being a greener mode of transport resulting in lower carbon emissions. We can help to reduce Global Warming by making more use of rail as an alterative to car, bus and air transport. Trains are expected to remain the most carbon efficient mode of transport after cycling and walking. See Environment page.
Portishead is one of the fastest growing towns in Europe, the population being expected to rise to 28,000 in coming years, an increase of over 350% from 1951 levels. The large number of new houses, office and light industrial operations is expected to add 2300 jobs to the existing local market. Most local businesses strongly support the reopening of the railway.
The journey down the Avon Gorge could become a big tourist attraction in itself. Occasional steam specials are still run down as far as the Portbury docks and are very popular. Portishead has long been a magnet for Bristol people attracted by the Lake Grounds and fine coastal views. The new Marina and the revitalised Open Air Pool are drawing even more visitors by road. How much better if they could arrive by train. Steamer services could be introduced from Portishead Pier to South Wales, the Holms, Minehead and Ilfracombe etc. In 2004, Thomas Cook the travel agents listed the Severn Beach line through the Gorge as one of the most scenic rail routes in Europe! See BBC web article. The Portishead branch would surely be even better! Tourist traffic could keep the line busy during off peak times.
The case for the railway doesn’t depend only on commuters heading for Bristol. Portishead is becoming a thriving regional shopping area with a traditional high street full of vibrant shops as well as new stores. Substantial numbers of people travel into Portishead by road to work in the shops and new office developments such as Kestrel Court and other business parks.
The best business case can be made by integrating the Severn Beach and Portishead branches, linked at Temple Meads, to the benefit of both lines. The same rolling stock could then run continuously from Severn Beach to Portishead and back, enhancing transport for a large part of the Bristol area. Bristol has good rail links with the rest of the network, and the Portishead line would enable residents to gain easy access to the rest of the country, and open up new opportunities for tourists.
Support from local MPs
Dr Liam Fox’s 2010 election literature said “It is disgraceful that we still don’t have the Portishead rail link that Liam has consistently campaigned for. Despite tremendous local support we have been badly let down.”
On 29 Jan 2005, Dr Liam Fox, MP, raised the question of the reopening of the Portishead to Bristol line in the House of Commons. He explained the transport problems in detail saying that we had “probably the most overcrowded cul-de-sac in Britain” and that 63% of Portishead’s adult population travelled out of town to work. See full text.
Local businesses and their employees support our campaign. We have received statements of corporate support from local businesses. More ...
A vision of the future
The new MetroWest project (was Greater Bristol Metro) includes re-opening of the Portishead line in Phase 1.
Further track clearance was done in Jan/Feb 2015 to enable investigative work.
The location of Portishead station was decided in March 2015. See New Station page.
Public consultation on reopening the line began on 22 June 2015. See News 17 June 2015