Bristol to Portishead rail link would cost £37 million to reopen
REOPENING a rail link between Portishead and Bristol would cost £36.9 million, a new report has revealed.
The new estimate comes after a year-long study by track operator Network Rail to see if it was feasible to reopen the railway.
The company has been working with North Somerset Council to work out if plans to reopen the line are workable and affordable.
The study says that if the line was to open, trains could travel between Portishead and Bristol Temple Meads in 17 minutes – slashing the current journey time by car. And, if funding can be secured, work on the line could start in 2015 and passenger trains start running early in 2018.
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Passenger train services from Portishead to Bristol were cut in the 1960s, although the line to Portbury Dock was reopened in 2002 for freight trains only.
But the goods line is mainly single track and in order to accommodate both freight and passenger trains in both directions there would need to be major works to upgrade existing track and complete the line into Portishead town centre.
Work needed to get the line back up and running includes improving the existing Portbury freight line so that trains can travel at 55mph, reinstating Pill railway station and replacing the disused three-mile track between Portbury Dock junction and Portishead.
A new road bridge would be built over the railway at Quays Avenue in Portishead and a station would have to be built on land already earmarked at Harbour Road.
As well as building costs, money would need to be found to pay for legal work and to underwrite the first few years of any passenger train service.
The plan is to operate passenger trains every half-an-hour at peak times and hourly off-peak from Portishead, calling at Pill and terminating at Bristol Temple Meads.
The report also indicates that there is capacity to call at other stations along the branch line, should this be viable, although extra stops would mean longer journey times and could substantially increase costs.
There is also potential to operate services beyond Temple Meads.
North Somerset Council deputy leader and executive member for strategic planning, Councillor Elfan Ap Rees, said he was encouraged by the findings.
Mr Ap Rees said: "Network Rail has examined all the options and associated engineering implications very thoroughly and while the estimated costs are higher than previously thought, the train journey times are much quicker.
"The reopening of the line would put an end to years of commuting misery, with a journey time into Bristol from Portishead of around 17 minutes.
"This would represent a considerable time saving for residents of Portishead and surrounding villages who currently have limited travel choices into Bristol, with traffic congestion on the A369 meaning that commuter journeys often take an hour or more."
No funding for the project has yet been agreed.
Mr Ap Rees said he was now keen to talk with the Department of Transport to speed up the project.
Mr Ap Rees said: "Taking account of the major project milestones in terms of funding approval, further Network Rail processes and other approval hurdles, at present the earliest construction could probably start is late 2015, with passenger train services reintroduced in 2018.
"While that may seem some time away and progressing the project in the current climate of Government budget restrictions is a challenge, five years is a typical lead time up to beginning construction for projects of this scale."
The Portishead Rail project forms part of the prioritised programme of major transport schemes for the Bristol area, agreed by Bristol City Council, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset.
The final version of the plan comes into effect on April 1 next year and covers a 15-year period.