Sunday service puts smiles on faces of rail enthusiasts
RAIL campaigners celebrated the launch of a new Sunday service on the Severn Beach line – with a picnic and a game of rounders.
About 40 members of the pressure group, Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, made the trip on the new service, which started yesterday.
They left Bristol Temple Meads at 1.14pm and arrived at Severn Beach 44 minutes later for a picnic on the village green followed by a game of rounders with railway staff.
Earlier, Councillor John Calway, leader of South Gloucestershire Council, officially launched the new service at Severn Beach station.
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The service has already been running to Avonmouth for the past two years but a subsidy from the council means it can now run to Severn Beach.
It is the first time that Severn Beach has been served by trains on a Sunday for 40 years.
Mr Calway said: "This new service will provide a regular and fast route to Bristol city centre and also increased tourism opportunities for visitors to take the train and experience the wonderful scenery that the Severn estuary offers."
Julie Boston, the pressure group's campaigns organiser, said: "We thought that a day out at the seaside would be the ideal way to celebrate.
"It's a recognition by our councils that people want to travel by train.
"People know it's reliable, regular and so much quicker than by car or bus."
Three years ago, Bristol City Council agreed to invest £450,000 a year to pay for an extra train and crew, which means there are trains about every 40 minutes between Bristol Temple Meads and Avonmouth and one every two hours to Severn Beach.
Ms Boston said: "At the moment, despite the large increase in passenger numbers, Bristol City Council's investment is due to end in April 2011.
"We want the council to continue to support local rail after that."
The line includes stops at Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road, Montpelier, Redland, Clifton Down, Shirehampton and Sea Mills.
The pressure group is campaigning for a half-hourly service at all Bristol's stations and the reopening of stations and lines.
Its priorities include reopening of the rail line to Portishead and the freight line from Avonmouth to Bristol Parkway via Henbury.
It also wants to see the redoubling of lines between Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway, as well as from Montpelier to Clifton Down to ensure more trains can run.
Keith Walton, chairman of the Severnside Community Rail Partnership, which promotes the line, said: "It's a popular route and we have seen passenger numbers increase by more than 80 per cent during the last three years."