Greater Bristol Metro report: First phase would cost £40m
THE first phase of rail improvements included in the Greater Bristol Metro campaign would cost £40 million, it has been claimed.
Most of that – around £33 million – would go on reopening the Portishead rail line for passenger trains.
The rest would be spent on doubling the track at Filton Bank and adding an extra service between Bristol and Bath.
The Greater Bristol Metro campaign was officially launched last month by the West of England Partnership, the body that represents the four local authorities in the area.
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They are lobbying the government and transport companies to include a raft of local rail improvements when the Great Western rail franchise is re-appointed next year.
The Department for Transport is currently consulting on what should be included in the new, 15-year contract.
Rail consultants Halcrow has produced a two-phase plan for the improvements, and gave a presentation to partnership members at a meeting this week.
Project manager David Crockett and rail operations specialist Graeme Pollard gave estimated costs for the various proposals, and explained why certain parts were given priority over others.
Providing four tracks at Filton Bank is the first step, Mr Crockett said, as it allowed other improvements to follow suit.
He said: "It's the key pinch point, the bottle neck on the whole system. If you don't have Filton Bank you don't have very much at all. It gives us capacity, but it doesn't actually buy any services."
Mr Pollard said the area's railway was being held back by changes that had been made in the past – such as closing stations and reducing track.
The main part of phase one improvements was the reopening of the Portishead to Bristol rail line.
Although various figures have been bandied about over the years, Halcrow estimate it would cost £32.9 million, including £25 million for the track and £7.75 million for new stations at Portishead and Pill.
Providing an extra service between Temple Meads and Bath would cost £2.76 million because there is currently no ability for trains to turn back at Bath Spa station.
Phase one also includes an enhanced service on the Severn Beach line. The last part of phase one would see one extra train stopping at Parson Street an hour by using the Cardiff to Taunton train.
Phase two prioritises the reopening of the Henbury loop, a network of stations in the north of the city.
But, to the disappointment of transport campaigners, Halcrow's proposal does not include the full loop yet.
The two new stations at Henbury and North Filton would cost £21 million and provide links to the development at Filton Airfield.
The service would not stop at Stapleton Road or Lawrence Hill though, due to conflicts with existing services.
Mr Pollard said: "We did scratch out heads on Henbury. The attraction of looping right round is very strong but there are a number of issues that crop up. The big one is getting in and out of Parkway. We also considered going in either direction. But if you go by Avonmouth it's faster by bus."
Phase two also included an improved service at Yate, but the details of this proposal have yet to be finalised.
Halcrow also put forward a "station package" of stops that could be re-opened if the business cases could be proven. This included Saltford, Ashton Gate, Corsham and Ashley Down.
Mr Crockett said: "We need to get the base level of service in first because the existing commuter service is poor. Rail services aren't for people to play trains with, they have to be for people to get to work and help the economy."