Bristol's £100m Metro rail bid for Government cash
A £100 MILLION bid to make Bristol's Metro rail dream a reality has gone to the Government.
Passenger trains from Bristol to Portishead and new stations in Horfield, Ashley Down and Saltford are among the items on the shopping list of transport leaders who have put the Greater Bristol Metro Rail bid together.
The plans have been handed to the Department for Transport at the same time as ministers and civil servants decide who will run the region's rail services over the next 15 years and what levels of service they will have to provide.
The West of England Partnership – made up of Bristol and its three neighbouring councils – launched an official campaign at the start of the year to see improvements to local services included in the new franchise.
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It followed years of pressure from transport campaigners and the Post, which has called for an Integrated Transport Authority to fight for improvements.
The funding bid has come as the first steps are taken to create a new transport company to oversee and run train services in the Bristol area.
If it is successful one of the first schemes to get the go-ahead would be the long-awaited reopening of the Bristol to Portishead rail line.
There would also be cash available for the Henbury Loop in the north of Bristol, improvements to Bedminster station and new stations at Saltford, Horfield, Ashley Down and Ashton Gate. There would also be improvements in services to South Gloucestershire and on the Severn Beach route.
If the bid is successful the money would be made available in two phases, in 2015 and in 2020.
Four transport companies are competing against one another to take control of the Great Western rail franchise from next year. It covers main line services to London and local services in the region.
The final details and specifications of the new franchise, which will be drafted by the Department of Transport in the coming weeks, will shape railway provision for the region for the next 15 years. If the metro funding bid is approved then the new routes and services it makes possible will be included in the final franchise.
The city council's Liberal Democrat cabinet councillor for transport, Tim Kent, was part of the team which put together the case for the extra Government funding.
He said: "The funding would be available in two phases but once we have a commitment from Government then we would be able to press ahead with the plans for the Bristol Metro.
"The final details for the Greater Western franchise have still to be decided but we would expect the improvements to be included.
"There is still a lot that has to be decided but what is clear that the improvements are needed more than ever as a result of the creation of the enterprise zone in the area around Temple Meads.
"The area is going to be a major employment area and we are talking about having to move thousands of people in and out of the area. There has to be some sort of public transport provision to cope with the extra demand."
The Post has learned that the WEP's transport executive will meet within the next month to discuss the possibility of setting up a standalone company to take responsibility for rail transport in the area. All four councils have agreed to the move, which could be the fist step towards a independent passenger transport executive similar to the one operating in London.
The company would be made up of councillors and probably a member of the business community, would be answerable to the local authorities and would take on devolved rail powers from central Government.
The powers would include the right to decide which routes should be operated and the levels of fares.
If the scheme was a success then it could be extended to include other forms of transport in the Bristol area, including buses and the new rapid transit system.
Transport campaigner David Redgewell is backing the move.
But he added: "This organisation may not be necessarily strong. The four unitary authorities still work separately for their own interests.
"We need to make sure this new standalone organisation works in partnership and for the good of the Bristol area as a whole."