The forerunner of this group (Portishead Railway Action Group) began to campaign for the reopening of the line in 2000.
The line from Bristol to Royal Portbury Docks has been in use as a freight line since 2002, leaving 3.2 miles of disused track to be reinstated, and the whole route needs to be upgraded to accept passenger traffic.
New railway investment projects now have to be managed through Network Rail’s GRIP process (Governance for Railway Investment Projects). There are 8 stages in GRIP, and construction starts at GRIP stage 6.
GRIP 3 (Option selection) for the Portishead line was originally completed in October 2010, but the GRIP process had to be restarted when the project became part of MetroWestPhase 1 in 2012. See MetroWest Briefing Note issued by the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership. This delayed the Portishead line, as the whole MetroWest project has to follow the GRIP process from GRIP 1.
Initial track clearance was done in February/March 2013 and every year since. This was to enable inspection of track bed, culverts etc. – photos ….
Three options for the Portishead terminus station site were considered by North Somerset Council in 2014. Details ...
MetroWest Phase 1 Preliminary Business Case was completed showing that the project is viable. See News 9 Sept 2014 and 23 October 2014.
MetroWest Phase 1 is classed as a ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ and consequently requires a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is a 6 stage planning process which will run in parallel with other technical processes.
Stage 1 Public Consultation on the project took place from June - August 2015. MetroWest published a Newsletterabout the consultation in January 2016. A 185 page report was published on 23 Dec 2015 by MetroWest. Further (stage 2) consultation followed (see below).
Public consultations took place in February/March 2016 for Pill Station and Ashton Vale Road level crossings. Report published June 2016. Further consultation on Ashton Vale Road crossing took place in Nov/Dec 2016.
In June 2016 it was announced that outline design was taking longer than expected due to technical difficulties, which would delay the Stage 2 formal DCO consultation and DCO submission. See MetroWest update June 2016.
North Somerset Council purchased two parcels of land which are required for the stations at Portishead and Pill.
On 9 March 2017 MetroWest made an announcement that the cost had risen from £58m to between £145m and £175m. PRG was expecting an increase but was shocked at the scale.
The West of England Joint Transport Board met on 17 March 2017 to consider the way forward. The board decided to consider a staged approach to Phase 1:
Upgrading Keynsham and Oldfield Park and Severn Beach Line stations to a ½ hourly service (hourly beyond Avonmouth)
Providing an initial frequency service to Portishead (1 train per hour with 2 in peak times)
Providing a half hourly service to Portishead (2 trains per hour as originally planned).
It was decided that the existing level crossing at Ashton Vale Road can remain open.
In Nov 2017 the Dept for Transport published a Strategic vision for rail (44 page PDF) including proposals that rail services lost under 1960s Beeching cuts may reopen. The Portishead line is mentioned on page 25.
A Stage 2 Public Consultation on the project to re-open the Portishead line ran from 23 October to 4 December 2017. Over 1000 responses were made. A report on the consultation was published in July 2018.
The revised cost of the Portishead line project is now £116.4 million, of which £69.5M is secured leaving a funding gap of £46.9M – but see below.
On 4 Dec 2018 North Somerset Council’s executive approved a further £1.4m towards the next stage in the reopening of the Portishead to Bristol rail line. The funding will be used to complete all detailed documentation for the submission of a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Government.
In February 2019 North Somerset Council agreed to allocate up to an extra £15M of regional funding from the Economic Development Fund, reducing the funding gap to £31.9M. See News 20 Feb 2019.
On 8 April 2019 it was announced that the funding gap of £31.9M had been closed. All of the funding necessary was now in place.