Posted by: nigelashtonuk | April 19, 2013

Portishead Rail

Plans to re-open the Portishead rail line and re-introduce passenger train services are  still being progressed.
North Somerset Council together with  South Gloucestershire, Bath & North East Somerset  and Bristol City, councils are working on  proposals for an ambitious programme of rail improvements for delivery over the next 10 years.  The  possible re-opening of the Portishead rail branch line  would  form part of the Great  West  Metro ,  Phase 1 project, which  would  be the first of a host of major projects identified to provide a range of improvements to the local rail network.
The project includes proposals for half hourly train services for the re-opened Portishead line, Severn Beach line and local stations between Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa.  The total project cost is estimated at between £45m to £55m, and is expected to be funded from the Department for Transport Major Schemes devolved grant subject to agreement of the proposed Local Transport Body.
“This is a really major transport project which has the potential to have massive benefits ,  not just for North Somerset, but for the whole sub-region. We need to  continue our efforts to move the project on sufficiently to secure the full approval and the necessary government funding. Any delay to this work would have a knock on effect upon project timescales and costs.
“It is vital that we take a coherent and a credible approach to both the delivery and the operation of the line so that we can  continue to present a strong case for the scheme to our funders and at future public inquiries.”

The process to secure the project is a lengthy one and dependent on a number of elements including funding approvals and planning powers to build and operate the project  still  need to be gained.  The process to secure planning powers is lengthy and requires the councils to set out a detailed evidence-based approach.   I am aware of at least four  “action groups”, some for and some against the possible reopening of the line, and I understand  the  high level of interest in something that has been talked about for many years. As none of the groups are involved in the negotiations between the Local Authority and Government, we will  need to  keep the public informed of all progress  through our Website.  
A n update  report on the projectwas agreed by North Somerset Council’s Executive on 16 April. It recommends a total of £1.35m is spent by the four unitary councils over the next 12 months on  more  detailed preparation work. North Somerset Council’s contribution would be £675,000, funded by developer funding (section 106 agreement money).
The next phase of preparation work includes progressing railway engineering design and preparation of a detailed business case.  In relation to the planning aspects of the project, the council is currently consulting through its Sites and Policies Development Plan Document (DPD) for the location of a new Portishead rail station  but final decisions will almost certainly have to take into account, financial and operational restrictions.  I will be asking a number of key people to join me on an official  group to see what  details we can negotiate if the project does go ahead. We have to be realistic and in the present economic situation I am not going to risk the scheme by expecting too much we have spent a lot of time and money getting this far.