Gridlocked Portishead has moved a major
step forwards in the campaign to reopen its railway line
yesterday after the pledge of a study by the region's new
promised to undertake a feasibility study after being
announced yesterday as the winners of the newly created rail
franchise Greater Western. It will run all the trains
throughout the South West and South Wales and the routes from
Campaigners have fought for years for the
reinstatement of the rail link that was axed in the infamous
Dr Beeching cuts of the 1960s.
"This is great news,"
said Alan Matthews, chairman of the Portishead Railway Group
last night. "It's another piece of the jigsaw towards getting
Meanwhile, passenger and transport groups
welcomed FirstGroup's being awarded the new
The West will have more rail routes and
better trains, the company said. They were also given the new
Thameslink-Great Northern franchise in a deal worth
A £100million investment will be spent
straight away on improving the trains, while other investments
include new ticket offices at Bristol Temple Meads and Bath
And Weston-super-Mare station will have new
toilets, stairs and footbridge.
There are plans to
increase car and cycle parking, add more ticket machines,
information points and CCTVs and improve signage.
franchise will start in April 2006, and the current timetables
will remain the same until December next year.
that, there are plans to add extra services between Bristol
and Exeter and to improve services to Filton Abbey Wood. There
will be new routes between Worcester and Taunton and Cardiff
The Westbury to London service will become
hourly, and the Cheltenham to London journey time will be
The move was welcomed by transport and
passenger pressure groups yesterday. David Redgewell, from
Transport 2000, the environmentally-friendly transport
campaigners, said: "I am absolutely thrilled that First have
got the contract and hope they take up the very many
opportunities to improve regional rail - we need long term
investment to finally upgrade stations, improve rolling stock
and generally lift us into the modern age.
2000 hope that this is the opportunity which will finally give
rail passengers the service they deserve."
West Public Transport Users' Forum also welcomed the move.
Chris Irwin, chairman of the Forum, said: "Passengers want a
railway that is both reliable and
"FirstGroup has the muscle to ensure the
first. We need reassuring that it still has the will to
deliver affordable fares."
The 10-year contract for
Greater Western combines the existing First Great Western and
Link franchises, both of which FirstGroup already runs, and
National Express and Stagecoach were
also bidding for the franchise.
FirstGroup also said
they would stand by a promise made in the summer to carry out
a feasibility study on Portishead.
"We will be involved
in a feasibility study, our managing director committed to
that," said Elaine Wilde, spokeswoman for First Great Western.
She said no date had yet been set for it to
Reopening the line would bring a passenger
service to both Pill and Portishead for the first time in
MR Matthews, chairman of the Portishead
Railway Group said he didn't believe it would be particularly
difficult to reopen the line, which is currently used just for
"It's one of the biggest towns in the area,
and it only has one road in and out," he said.
only been with the group for about five months and it's quite
amazing the number of people who have come up to me in that
time who want the line back. The developers want it and the
residents want it."
In the decades since the last train
pulled away from Portishead station, the population of the
town has more than doubled, to about 17,000. More residents
are on the way, as one of the West's biggest house-building
schemes adds 3,500 homes and takes the population to about
25,000 over the next five years.
Although the town has
notorious rush-hour traffic jams and was dubbed "the most
overcrowded cul-de-sac in Britain" by local MP Liam Fox, the
railway stands idle.