On track: Dave Wood
T HE Severn Beach line is just like the Phoenix that has risen from the ashes. The dark days after the Beeching cuts of the 1960s have gone, and this line is enjoying better times.
In recent years this line has seen a revival, and a lot of that can be credited to Julie Boston. Julie is part of Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways.
This is a campaign group that has done sterling work to promote the Severn Beach line. This line is now loved and passenger numbers are increasing all the time.
Network Rail can be credited to track improvements, and this line is getting better all the time. Also it is used as a diversionary route – that is, when engineering work is taking place up the Filton Bank. Trains can be diverted along the Beach line to Avonmouth and back up the Henbury loop line to the mainline. Also this line will come into its own with all the new development being built at Avonmouth. And don't forget Bristol might be getting a new dock at Avonmouth – the Beach line will come in handy then. First Great Western has been playing its part and is supplying a good train service.
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With the investment from Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council, this line is seeing record numbers of people using it. When you think about it, this is a pretty little branchline. When you leave Severn Beach, the track hugs the Bristol Channel – with spectacular views across the channel to the coast of Wales. After the train leaves Shirehampton station, the track hugs the River Avon to Sea Mills. When the train comes out of Horseshoe Bend you have good views across the Avon.
Just imagine the Severn Beach line joined up to the Portishead line – what spectacular views you would encounter. Trains running along the Avon Gorge under the Suspension Bridge to Portishead – very scenic. To really make the Severn Beach and Portishead line a runaway success, run steam specials in the summer months on these two lines and hire the newly built Tornado train. Now that would be something. The Severn Beach line is a shining example of what can be achieved with good adequate investment. Let's hope this investment is there for years to come.
Dave Wood is a member of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, Bristol. The above is written in a personal capacity.