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06.05.15

Major step forward for Portishead Line reopening

North Somerset Council has endorsed the preferred location for the new Portishead station, a “major step forward” in the project to re-open the Portishead line as part of the MetroWest programme.

The local authority’s executive said option 2B – a corner site between Quays Avenue and Harbour Road – is the best option, having listened to the responses to a public consultation last summer.

A total of 407 people responded to the consultation and made 1,014 comments on the three station options. The results revealed that for:

  • Option 2A (East of Quays Avenue) - 174 were either strongly in support or some support, 18 were neutral and 149 were slightly or strongly against.
  • Option 2B (Across Quays Avenue) - 213 were either strongly in support or some support, 13 were neutral and 86 were slightly or strongly against.
  • Option 2C (Between Serbert Road and Harbour Road) - 132 were either strongly in support or some support, 7 were neutral and 152 were slightly or strongly against.

The Executive noted, however, that the concept design of option 2B needs to be refined “through the normal engineering design iterative process”.  But in respect of railway infrastructure, the location of the station platform is more certain at this stage and therefore less likely to require alteration.

Reopening the Portishead Line is a priority for the West of England’s local authorities – Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – and is expected to increase the UK’s passenger rail network by 10 miles and connect an additional 30,000 people to the network.

DSC01850

Phase 1 of the MetroWest programme, expected to cost £58.2m, includes re‐opening the Portishead line to passenger services and increasing the frequency of services on the Severn Beach and Bath Lines.

MetroWest has even stated that new train services could start operating from May 2019. But this is subject to funding and meeting all the regulatory and technical requirements.

With regards to the new Portishead station, it was noted that following consideration of the technical assessment, the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) confirmed that it would not contemplate a level crossing at Quays Avenue.

The ORR said there was no case for exceptional circumstances for a level crossing; there are viable non level crossing options available; and there are significant traffic issues causing safety risks to the operation of the railway.

Moving forward

MetroWest phase 1 involves rebuilding the 5km of disused railway between Portishead and Pill, upgrading the Portbury freight line, partial reinstatement of the Down Relief line near Bedminster station (900m of track), minor signalling works at Avonmouth and a crossover and signalling at Bathampton.

Cllr Nigel Ashton, leader of North Somerset Council, said: “This is a complex project with challenging technical, planning and organisational constraints and dimensions. The project is on programme to commence construction in late 2017 and open in May 2019.

“I am delighted that we have now concluded considerations on the location for Portishead rail station. We have chosen the very best location for the station and this is a very positive step forward for Portishead and re-opening the railway line."

MetroWest Phase 1 is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) and consequently requires a Development Consent Order (DCO).

For stage 1 of the DCO process the ‘promoter’ (the council) has to engage with and consult the local community, business, stakeholders, land owners, statutory bodies and interested parties.

An initial public consultation on the project is planned for early summer 2015 to ascertain the community’s expectations, to identify any areas of concern and to provide the community with an opportunity to influence the design of the project. The project outline design will then follow over the summer and autumn.

Line clearance work

Earlier this month, work on clearing 3.3 miles of Portishead’s disused railway line was completed by Glendale, a green services provider.

DSC01848 edit

The combined clearance projects, worth over £120,000, were delivered over three phases with an initial clearance phase carried out in 2014 to allow engineers to access structures for surveying.

The latest 2015 clearance phase required up to 12 staff working on the project over a five week period. It will now be followed by a third phase of clearance work on some parts of the freight line in Pill, North Somerset.

Jon Eglin, arboriculture manager for the Bristol area at Glendale, said: “The delivery of this large project, with limited access and an unusual environment, is a credit to the arborist teams at Bristol.

“The scale of the work involved required a real team effort and there are not many companies in the area that could handle this as well as maintaining current contracts locally.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.travelwest.info/MetroWest

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