Fares, rail policy and DfT news

05.03.19

Bristol’s MetroWest could be expanded to Gloucester and Westbury

Great Western Railway and Network Rail are reportedly keen on new plans for the MetroWest railway to be expanded to Gloucester and Westbury, leading to growing belief amongst local transport chiefs.

Discussions over expanding the line are due to conclude in the summer, and last year the government said it would back to the ‘phase three’ of the rail project in order to improve suburban train services into Bristol.

Phase one is currently underway, delivering the reopening of the Portishead line to passenger services on the Severn Beach and Bath to Bristol lines; and work is ongoing for phase two, which will see the Henbury line reopen.

Serious discussions are now underway for MetroWest to be expanded 30 miles beyond Yate to Gloucester in the north and 15 miles from Bath to Westbury.

The director of infrastructure for the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) David Carter said it was working with Network Rail to determine the necessary infrastructure.

Carter told councillors that he had asked MetroWest 1 to be extended to Westbury and MetroWest 2 to stretch to Gloucester, stating that it was up to the DfT to negotiate with Great Western Railway to determine whether to accepts the proposal.

He stated: “We have to make sure we keep, in both MetroWest 1 and 2, the cost of the turnback at Bath and the cost of the turnback at Yate until such time as the department confirms Gloucester and Westbury are in the franchise, and we won't know that until June or July.”

Carter added that WECA was working in collaboration with Network Rail on the necessary infrastructure.

“Network Rail and Great Western Railway would rather there weren’t turn backs because it adds to operational resilience issues, but technically there’s space within the timetable to have that turnback and operate the service.”

The Portishead line section received £15m worth of funding from North Somerset Council, with £11.7m over two years spent on developing a full business case, but the plans still face a £31m shortfall, which Carter acknowledged.

If the plans progress, the MetroWest will also see the construction of new railway stations in Ashley Down and Henbury.

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