New line's drainage issues are a running problem
I T is excellent news that the line from Bristol to Portishead could be reopened by 2017. And even better news that a reopened Ashton Gate station could serve a rebuilt Ashton Gate stadium.
Although it has to be said that a golden opportunity was missed to extend the line to Portishead when the track was re-laid to Royal Portbury dock in 2003. But when that work was carried out, not enough attention was paid to drainage and there have been problems ever since.
When the decision was made to re-open the line to the docks, the track was in a run-down condition.
After years of neglect, vegetation had got out of control and trees had started to grow up through the lines.
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Around £20 million was allocated to the project but it was not enough to sort out the drainage system in Pill tunnel, Pill station and at various points along the six-mile line.
As a result, it did not take long for Pill tunnel to flood and for the track outside Pill station to become waterlogged. There were maintenance problems and consequently speed limits were imposed on the track.
We have to learn from those mistakes before the line reopens to passengers in 2017. In my opinion, it must not be handed back for use as a passenger line until a qualified rail engineer is satisfied that a first-class civil engineering rail project has been carried out. The problems following the re-opening of the line in 2003 must not re-occur.
This time, a proper assessment needs to be made of where drainage problems could develop. The railways civil engineers' handbook states that the most important part of the track is the drainage.
If we are to have a decent Bristol Metro where trains run on time in all winds and weather all year round, a first-class civil engineering job needs to be carried out.
Just think about recent events where lines were washed away, embankments started to slip away, and lines closed for days on end.
A lot of this could be attributed to getting rid of maintenance slip and drainage gangs and local length gangs, where specialist men with knowledge of local rail problems could have maintained the track to a better condition.
In my view cutbacks and savings and payments made to shareholders have undermined maintenance, and the biggest losers are always the travelling public.
Rail Maritime and Transport Union Bristol
Written in a personal capacity