Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways

Our case 2018

Bristol’s biggest problem is traffic – congestion, delays, air quality, noise pollution and accidents. More and more of us realize that the problem cannot be solved on the roads alone and that the neglected railways can make a crucial contribution. The most recent passenger statistics demonstrate how many journeys local rail takes off the road network [Read more…]

Our campaigning has already notched up some victories!

What are we campaigning for?

FOSBR calls on our MPs, mayors, and local councillors in the immediate term to press the government to deliver:

At the same time we press the West of England Partnership and the constituent local authorities to:

In the longer term, we also urge MPs to press the government to fund the public transport elements of the West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study, with local rail as a backbone for the region. [Read more…]

This includes:

Join us in our campaign!


Portishead Line – MetroWest Phase 1

FOSBR, the Portishead Rail Group and other allies have persuaded the West of England Partnership (WEP) to restore passenger trains between Bristol Temple Meads and Portishead. MetroWest Phase 1 includes re-opening stations at Pill and Portishead.

A station at Ashton Gate is not included in the Development Consent Order for works on the Portishead scheme. Ashton Gate is subject to a separate business case. Delays have arisen because the GRIP 3 stage of the scheme has identified higher than expected costs in upgrading the freight-only Parson Street - Pill line to passenger standards, including safeguarding access to the Ashton Vale Industrial Estate (currently accessed via level crossing) and rebuilding Parson Street Junction as a double track junction to allow trains to pass there on the branch.

MetroWest Phase 1 also includes upgrading the Severn Beach line with half-hourly services as far north as Avonmouth and hourly to St. Andrews Road and Severn Beach.

There will also be half-hourly train services at Keynsham, Oldfield Park, Parson Street and possibly Bedminster. It is intended to develop cross-city services which may result in direct trains between Severn Beach and Bath and/or Portishead. These plans are still under evaluation. The new train services are due to commence in the first half of 2020.

The TravelWest website includes details of the (completed) consultations, including Portishead station location, access arrangements for Pill station and access to to Ashton Vale Industrial Estate.

[Read more…]

Henbury – MetroWest Phase 2

In 2015 the WEP Joint Transport Board resolved to prepare an outline business case for a Henbury spur service with new stations at Ashley Down, North Filton and Henbury as part of MetroWest Phase 2. Consultants to the Partnership dismissed the case for a Henbury loop service extending west to Avonmouth via Clifton Down to Temple Meads, claiming this would attract only 8,000 more passengers per year than the proposed spur.

The business case ignored the volume of new residents of the 8,000 new homes in the Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood (old Filton Airfield) who will likely need to travel to employment hubs to the north-west of the city, such as Severnside. FOSBR believe that a loop service from Avonmouth to Filton would contribute more to MetroWest flexibility and resilience than a spur service from Filton. WEP have confirmed that the spur service will not prejudice subsequent extension into a loop.

MetroWest Phase 2 includes the extension of Weston-super-Mare-Bristol Parkway local trains to Yate for a half-hourly service. These services, and the hourly Henbury service, are due to open to passengers in MetroWest Phase 2 in 2021/22.

The TravelWest website includes details of the (completed) consultations, including Henbury station location.

[Read more…]

Four-tracking of Filton Bank

The four-tracking of Filton Bank between Dr Days Junction and Filton includes improvements to associated signaling infrastructure. The capacity improvement will benefit inter-city and freight trains running between Bristol Temple Meads and Bristol Parkway, Severn Beach Line trains that branch off at Narroways junction and stopping trains for re-opened stations on the Filton Bank.

Four tracks will also allow maintenance to be carried out without disrupting services. The project is now (as at early 2017) well underway, with work being undertaken at various sites along the route. The project is scheduled by Network Rail to be completed in 2018. The work was originally scheduled to be complete by 2015.

[Read more…]

Bristol East Junction

Bristol East Junction is the complex of railway lines to the east of Temple Meads station. This end of the station has eight platform tracks, two through lines and three sidings; at the far end of the junction the routes become two tracks towards Bath (the Great Western Main Line) and four tracks towards Bristol Parkway. There was a third route, the Midland Railway line to Gloucester, but this now only gives access to Barton Hill Traction and Rolling Stock Depot.

The Network Rail scope of works is as follows:

  • remodel and rationalise within the existing geographical constraints
  • recovery 57 point ends and replacing with 47 including Kingsland Road sidings
  • replace the Bristol East Signal Gantry for electrical clearances
  • junction lighting
  • waterproof Avon Street bridge and replace decking
  • install all overhead electrification (OLE) structures conventionally across the junction.

Network Rail states that the re-modelling will provide:

  • operational flexibility (all lines can reach all platforms)
  • increased line speed on the east side of the Gantry
  • capacity requirements for the 2018 Intercity Express Programme (IEP) timetable
  • and all capacity requirements up to year 2043.

Remodelling of the junction also provides the capacity and flexibility to incorporate the MetroWest timetable; it is vital for MetroWest Phase 2 and desirable for Phase 1.

There is currently no funding for this capacity improvement. However the National Audit Office’s recent report on electrification suggests that Bristol East Junction could usefully be funded and put in place now before the delayed electrification works resume. The Mayor, Marvin Rees, has written to the DfT to ask for Bristol East Junction as compensation for the delay in electrification; apparently the Department for Transport (DfT) are offering £10m from the savings of electrification for the development study for Bristol East Junction, but are not (at present) offering to pay for the engineering works themselves. The Mayor has said that he would welcome FOSBR support for this campaign. It is likely that FOSBR and other rail campaign groups will be asking DfT for FULL funding for these vital improvement works.


Electrification of the Great Western Main Line (GWML) to Bristol Temple Meads and the South Wales Main Line (SWML) to Swansea was originally anticipated to be complete by 2017.

In November 2015 the DfT deferred the electrification of the SWML from Cardiff to Swansea.

In November 2016 the DfT deferred the electrification of the Great Western Main Line from Bath Spa (Thingley Junction) to Bristol Temple Meads and also deferred the connecting electrification from Bristol Parkway to Bristol Temple Meads station (Filton Bank).

Electrification works from Paddington working west have been underway for some years and the works on the SWML to Cardiff via Bristol Parkway and the Severn Tunnel should be complete by December 2018. The electrification of the GWML as far as Thingley Junction will be complete at some point after December 2018.

The new Hitachi IEP trains have bi-mode capability so that they can run on electric until Thingley Junction or Bristol Parkway then switch to diesel to reach Bath and Temple Meads. Diesel running is slower so will affect the anticipated journey time reduction of 22 minutes between Temple Meads and Paddington. The IEP trains have 20% more seats than the current HST equivalents and will be rolled out from the end of 2017.

The Secretary of State for Transport has indicated that the savings made by electrification deferral in Control Period 5 (2014-2019) can be used to benefit MetroWest. Further clarification is awaited. Network Rail have indicated that the deferred electrification schemes will be implemented in Control Period 6 (ie, by the end of March 2024).

[Read more…]

Temple Meads Spatial Plan

The 70 hectare Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone was officially opened in 2012 and will last for 25 years - aiming to regenerate a large part of central Bristol, centred on Temple Meads station and specifically to create more jobs (17,000 by the end of the project).

As well as creating a new community of housing and industry, the project aims to improve the chaotic traffic and pedestrian routes around the station. The Temple Quarter Spatial Framework will contribute to planning guidelines over the next 25 years to “guide and shape new development in the area”.

Many of the aspirations within the framework require a partner developer or other funding sources yet to be identified. Some key points from the framework document are extracted below:

  • Two additional train platforms will be re-instated at Bristol Temple Meads in the DigbyWyatt Passenger Shed (currently a car park) for inter-city or MetroWest services.

  • Temple Circus junction will be re-modelled to create a crossroads with a one-stage crossing from a new public space called Temple Place. The visual and physical link between St Mary Redcliffe and the station will be improved by extending the Brunel Mile pedestrian/cycle route into the new concourse. There will be a northern station entrance on Friary (to be known as Brunel Square). Brunel Square/Friary will also encompass public space, retail and office developments.

  • The current concourse under Temple Meads will extend east into the Sorting Office site to provide a new eastern station entrance. This new eastern entrance will lead to Totterdown Basin (which will have a water-based leisure focus).

  • A new “Station Street” route (pedestrian & publically accessible) is proposed to run under Temple Meads from Friary to Totterdown Basin, partly in existing disused tunnels. This would run parallel and emerge adjacent to the new station concourse.

  • In December 2016 Bristol University announced that it will take over the derelict Sorting Office building, demolish it and build a new £300M campus - to be called the 'Temple Quarter Campus' with a new business school and a student residential village. It is hoped that the new campus will open in time for the 2021/22 academic year.

  • The eastbound pedestrian/cycle corridor will continue across the floating harbour with a pedestrian Silverthorne Bridge towards Silverthorne Lane and Barton Hill. The southeast bound pedestrian/cycle corridor towards Totterdown will continue via a boardwalk to Feeder Road and Brocks Bridge crossing Arena Island onto a “generous” promenade alongside Bath Road.

  • At Friary there will be a bus interchange for “terminating bus services”, re-located there from Station Approach. Other bus stops, including MetroBus and Park & Ride, will be moved to the side of the new Temple Gate crossing. Discussions have started with the owners of the plot in front of Bristol & Exeter House to set aside more space for eastbound bus-stops on Temple Gate. Station Approach will be used for drop-offs and taxis.

  • There will be a new road to link Temple Back East with Friary - where there will be a 500-space/800-cycle space multi-storey car park.

[Read more…]

Transport Integration

FOSBR promotes integration with other forms of transport and works closely with allied organizations to make local stations attractive to existing and potential passengers. Severnside Community Rail Partnership has implemented great improvements to local stations through community engagement, including their recent re-modelling of Severn Beach platform shelter.

FOSBR meets regularly with our colleagues at Transport for Greater Bristol to promote local stations as effective interchanges with bus and other forms of transport.

FirstBus already have smart cards that simplify ticket purchase and GWR are rolling out smart cards from July 2017. We look forward to hearing how these smart cards will function and whether they will include PlusBus capabilities for different transport modes per journey.

[Read more…]

Pilning Footbridge Removal

In 2016 FOSBR campaigned hard to prevent the removal of the Pilning footbridge to the westbound platform. This footbridge was removed in November 2016. Network Rail saved £658,000 by not replacing the bridge as part of the electrification of the South Wales Main Line but it will now cost the taxpayer over £5,000,000 to replace it via the GRIP process.

The station currently runs a token service using only the eastbound platform.

Forecasts for growth in the Pilning/Severn Beach area include figures of around 17,000 new jobs, concentrated in the Western Approach, Central Park and Westgate business and distribution parks. FOSBR wish to see the business case made to re-instate the footbridge and provide a meaningful commuter service.

West of England Partnership Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study

At the end of 2016 the four West of England councils – Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset, and South Gloucestershire - consulted on the emerging Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) and Joint Transport Study (JTS). [Read more…]

The WEP JSP & JTS aims to set out a framework for sustainable growth that will help the area meet its housing and transport needs for the next 20 years. The West of England Region is a growing area, both economically and demographically. It is projected the West of England population will grow by 185,500 (16.4%) and there will be an increase of 82,500 jobs and employment over the next 20 years to 2036.

The JTS is intended to help the region address existing transport issues and to address how best to supply the supporting infrastructure to deliver the required number of new homes and land for employment purposes.

The FOSBR response to the JSP/JTS can be found here

The JTS recommendations will be published in summer 2017. All four councils will then consider these recommendations for inclusion in an update to the Joint Local Transport Plan for further public consultation by the end of 2017.

MetroWest Phase 3 [Map here…]

FOSBR have brought together a list of enhancements we wish to see beyond those scheduled under the existing phases of MetroWest. We have given this list of stations, to which we would like to see a half-hourly service, the umbrella name of MetroWest Phase 3. We believe the additional improvements sought Here is a list of additional improvements sought should be incorporated in the Joint Local Transport Plan:

Portway Park & Ride

Portway Park & Ride has been listed under MetroWest Phase 1 but was always subject to a separate business case. The business case for Portway Park & Ride has progressed further and Portway Park & Ride may be the first new station we see opened in the area.

In November 2016 Bristol City Council submitted a bid to the DfT’s New Stations Fund 2 and to the WEP’s Local Growth Fund for £2.225m to construct a rail station at the existing Portway bus Park and Ride site. Should the bids be successful, it is hoped the design work to be undertaken in 2017/8 with trains serving the station by May 2019.

[Read more…]

Devolution & the MetroMayor

Bristol City Council, Bath & North East Somerset (BANES) and South Gloucestershire councils have voted for a devolution deal to create a West of England Combined Authority. North Somerset opposed the plans and will not be involved. On 4th May 2017 (and four-yearly thereafter) there will be an election for a new MetroMayor for the region.

The Combined Authority will be led by the new MetroMayor and the Cabinet will be the Leader of BANES, Cllr Tim Warren, Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, and the Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Cllr Matthew Riddle. The Combined Authority will manage new powers, funding and responsibilities handed from central Government to the region as part of the deal.

The MetroMayor will receive £900 million in funding over a 30-year period - £30 million per annum - and some local control of education & skills, housing and planning, and transport. These powers will include:

  • strategic planning and compulsory purchase powers
  • control over the adult education budget to be fully devolved in the year 2018/19
  • joint responsibility with Westminster to design a National Work and Health programme with the aim of helping the long term unemployed with health and disability issues
  • control of the transport budget, with the ability to franchise bus services and introduce smart ticketing.

FOSBR is alarmed that the already sketchy reference to a working relationship with Network Rail specified in the March 2016 Devolution Deal as well as the possibility of managing local rail stations was removed in the final Governance Scheme. FOSBR requests that the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the Combined Authority and Network Rail is made public.

[Read more…]