The FoSBR Plan for Rail delivers the backbone of a sustainable transport system. It does this by taking advantage of the region’s biggest underused asset: its suburban rail network. Bristol, Bath and the West of England is crossed by railway lines. But the trains are infrequent, many places have no local station, and some lines are only used by freight trains.
FoSBR welcomes the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest rail plan. This will add some new routes and new stations. But it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s happening too slowly. FoSBR is campaigning for more lines, more stations, and more frequent trains. We want them sooner rather than later.
We want local lines to be electrified as soon as possible, to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. The network also needs to be fully integrated with buses, cycling and walking routes, with a single simple ticketing system to make it easy to use.
The FoSBR Plan for Rail map shows that almost all of the network is already in place – but it isn’t being exploited. Most of the enhancements we need for a turn-up-and-go metro service can be made using land the railway already owns. Often this can be done by reinstating stations and tracks that were removed in the past.
Severn Beach Line
The Severn Beach line consists mostly of single track, with passing places (‘loops’) at Avonmouth and Clifton Down to allow trains to cross each other. Single track greatly limits the number of trains that can be run, and compounds delays. The line was originally double-tracked all the way to Avonmouth, so there should be room to install a second track without needing any new land.
WECA’s 10-year Rail Plan proposes to re-double the track from Narroways Junction, just north of Stapleton Road, to a point just south of Montpelier station. This will allow for a three trains per hour service. FoSBR wish to extend this two-tracked section through Clifton Down station, allowing for a reliable every-15-minutes service to Avonmouth. To do this it will be necessary to reinstate the disused second platforms at Redland and Montpelier stations, and make them accessible.
The West of England Combined Authority will shortly start building a new station at Portway Park and Ride.
Severn Beach to Yate, and Henbury Loop
FoSBR wish to see services along the Henbury Line extended, via a new station at Chittening, to connect with the Severn Beach line towards Clifton Down: the ‘Henbury Loop’. However level crossing capacity between Avonmouth and Severn Beach currently limits the number of trains that could run round this loop.
YTL, who are developing a new arena in the old Brabazon Hangar at North Filton, would like to see trains from North Filton serving Bristol Parkway station. This aspiration is supported by the West of England’s proposal for a service from Severn Beach to Yate, via a new curve near Holesmouth Junction.
Work should start soon on a new station at Ashley Down, between Stapleton Road and Filton Abbey Wood stations. This will be served by hourly trains to new stations at North Filton (for the YTL Arena and Brabazon area) and Henbury. We expect plans for North Filton and Henbury stations to be submitted shortly.
FoSBR welcomes plans for Ashley Down station to open ahead of the other Henbury Line stations, with services to other local destinations calling there.
FoSBR supports local residents calling for a new local station for Lockleaze, between Ashley Down station and Filton Abbey Wood.
Stations between Bristol Parkway, Yate and Gloucester, and the Thornbury line
The West of England Combined Authority and Gloucestershire Council propose a half-hourly service between Bristol and Gloucester. Plans for a new station at Charfield, supported by local MP Luke Hall, have reached Strategic Outline Business Case stage.
FoSBR supports Stonehouse Town Council’s campaign for a new station at Stroudwater, near where the Bristol to Gloucester line crosses Bristol Road.
FoSBR has also sought local support for a new station at Coalpit Heath.
The line from Yate to Thornbury has been cut short at Tytherington Quarry, about 1.5km east of the old site of Thornbury station. The line passed under the A38 to Thornbury through Grovesend Tunnel, which is in private ownership but appears to be in good condition. A new location would need to be found for Thornbury station. Junction capacity will need to be improved to allow regular trains to access the branch.
FoSBR believe that this line could provide a quick, sustainable, high quality transport option for the 12,000 people who live in Thornbury. WECA currently has no committed plans to reinstate passenger trains on this route.
Network Rail’s Bristol to Birmingham Corridor Strategic Rail Study, published in June 2021, proposes a number of improvements including potentially adding extra tracks between Bristol Parkway and Westerleigh Junction. This would greatly improve the prospects for new services on these routes.
FoSBR supports Wiltshire Council’s bid to the Department for Transport ‘Restoring your Railway’ Ideas Fund for a new station at Corsham.
The proposed new two-platform station would be situated on the Great Western Main Line and would provide easy access to MOD Corsham, the largest employer in the town.
This bid also has widespread backing, with local MP Michelle Donelan and six other MPs in the region supporting the plans, along with other stakeholders such as Corsham Town Council, Bath & North East Somerset Council, Bath Spa University, Chippenham Town Council and MOD Corsham.
Stations between Bristol and Bath
These proposed stations are on a busy two-track main line, and services will have to share this with fast trains from Bristol to London and from Cardiff to Portsmouth. Without investment in passing loops, there may not be sufficient line capacity to allow specific trains to stop at both stations. However there may be capacity for trains to stop at these stations alternately. FoSBR accepts that this alternating service may be necessary to begin with, but will continue to press for capacity upgrades to allow an every-15-minutes service to both stations.
A new hourly train service to Portishead will be introduced as Phase 1 of the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest programme. This will serve new stations at Portishead and Pill, before joining the main line from Exeter to Bristol at Parson Street.
The original business case for this service proposed a half-hourly service, but this was changed to hourly to save costs. Experience elsewhere suggests that demand for this service will be higher than the business case assumed, so FoSBR will continue to press for a half-hourly service. The FoSBR Plan for Rail also includes additional stations at Portbury, serving the village and employment area, and Ashton Gate, serving the football stadium as well as large parts of Southville and Ashton. Ashton Gate station is currently being ‘explored’ as an option in Bristol City Council’s Corporate Strategy for 2022-27.
Stations between Bristol Temple Meads and Weston super Mare
WECA’s 10-year rail plan, backed by Network Rail’s Bristol West Capacity Enhancement programme, proposes to reinstate four tracks between Bristol Temple Meads and Parson Street. This will provide capacity for an every-15-minutes service to these stations.
FoSBR have fought hard for access improvements to Bedminster station as part of the Bedminster Green and Whitehouse Lane developments.
FoSBR seek local support for a new station at Long Ashton, near Bristol.
FoSBR seek local support for a new station at Uphill near Weston-super-Mare.
Pilning and South Wales
Pilning Station is on the South Wales Main Line, about 2.5km from the English portal of the Severn Tunnel.
Network Rail removed its footbridge in 2016, since when it has a minimal service of eastbound trains on Saturdays only.
FoSBR is campaigning with Pilning Station Group to reinstate the footbridge and improve the service at Pilning station. 25,000 jobs are due to be created in the area as part of the Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area, and the new junction on the M49 motorway could allow for a park-and-ride-type station. Pilning is better placed for fast routes to Wales, Bristol or London in comparison to the nearby Severn Beach station. The Welsh Government’s plans to open six new stations between Cardiff and Severn Tunnel Junction contrast starkly with developments this side of the Severn.