Rail Line Hopes Revived


by John Thompson - Evening Post 14 Dec 2005


CAMPAIGNERS fighting to reopen the Portishead to Bristol railway line were given new hope today by train operator First Group. The company says it is considering carrying out a feasibility study on the route and would then see if it would be viable to operate a passenger service. But even if it finds the line could be run at a profit, it would still have to convince the rail authorities for the £5 million to £7 million needed for new track. First Group said it would consider carrying out a feasibility study after winning the newly created Greater Western train franchise yesterday.


Portishead residents have been campaigning for years to reopen the line to ease traffic congestion on the A369. The town is the fastest growing in the region, with 4,000 new homes being built around the new marina, which will bring 10,000 new residents. It will make Portishead the second largest town in North Somerset after Weston‑super‑Mare. First Group spokeswoman Elaine Wilde said today: "We will be considering carrying out a feasibility study of the line and then see what it throws up."


Members of the Portishead Railway Group said today the announcement was a "big step forward" in their campaign to get the line reopened. Chairman Alan Matthews said: "I don't think it would be particularly difficult to reopen the line. The residents want it and the developers building the new homes want it." Group member Matt Skidmore said he was very happy the feasibility study was being considered. He said: “If it tells First Group that the line would be viable, then it would be up to them to ask the rail authorities to provide the money to get the track reopened. The line up to Pill is already in use for freight trains to Royal Portbury Dock and I don't think the extra three‑mile stretch of track to Portishead would cost a lot more than £5 to £7 million."


Woodspring MP Dr Liam Fox has dubbed Portishead the most over‑crowded cul-de-sac in Britain because of its notorious traffic jams.


The Department of Transport said today that First Group's success in winning the Great Western franchise did not change the process of getting the Bristol to Portishead line back in use. A spokesman said the move would need the official support of Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council, who would have to apply to Network Rail, which is responsible for the upkeep of the railways. If it was backed by Network Rail, an application could then be made to the Department of Transport.