At the end of January WECA released the latest iteration of the Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP4 2020-2036 January 2020). This document steers transport policy across Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset and North Somerset until 2036.
The document attracted publicity for its apparently conflicting aims. It mentions the climate emergency declared by all 4 councils, states that we must decarbonise our transport network by 2030 and then focuses primarily on road-building schemes.
Dr Steve Melia of UWE, in his article for the Bristol Cable, says:
It’s a bizarre document; seemingly written by two groups of people with totally different views. One group says: all four authorities have declared climate emergencies; we must take urgent action to decarbonise by 2030. The other says: we must build and widen lots of roads to boost economic growth.Dr Steve Melia
In FoSBR’s response to the previous version of the JLTP4 (Draft JLTP4 2019-2026 January 2019) we highlighted the imbalance of investment between sustainable and non-sustainable schemes:
Even where public transport schemes are in the mix, they take longer to develop. Despite being more expensive, the road schemes are the ones that get worked on first and are quicker to reach fruition. Road schemes are developed with the resources and budgets of Highways England, whilst public transport schemes cast around local and central government for piecemeal funding.
For this release of the JLTP4, FoSBR have pored over the references to rail to see what has changed since the consultation draft. Details around buses, mass transit in Bristol and light rail in Bath require further analysis.
Here are the important rail points. We’ve highlighted full changes to wording in ‘The Details…’, below.
Section 7: Connectivity within the West of England – Rail – MetroWest
The wording of the MetroWest programme here is largely the same other than the delivery dates which have slipped 2 years to a delivery date of 2023/2024.
- Half hourly services on the Severn Beach to Bath Spa and Westbury Lines.
- Reopening of the Portishead Line in 2024 with, initially, an hourly service (half hourly aspiration) to Bristol Temple Meads and new stations at Portishead and Pill.
- Re-opening of the Henbury Line with new stations at Henbury and North Filton to serve Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood (5,700 new homes) and, if approved, the new Bristol Arena.
- New station at Ashley Down on the Filton Bank.
- Half hourly services between Bristol Temple Meads and Yate (3,000 new homes) by 2022, with possible extension to Gloucester. FoSBR note: this date has slipped from 2021.
- New station at Portway Parkway, part funded by the New Stations Fund, to serve the adjacent Park & Ride site. FoSBR note: this Portway is supposed to be built and operational by December 2020.
- New station at Charfield funded through the WECA Investment Fund to support housing growth
Section 7: Connectivity within the West of England – Rail – Building on MetroWest
There are several changes here.
- The draft JLTP4 indicated that WECA would work on a 15-minute Severn Beach Line service. The January 2020 version indicates three trains per hour on the Severn Beach Line but suggests four trains per hour between Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury and two trains per hour on the Henbury Line.
- Regional services to be improved Cardiff-Portsmouth, Bristol-Taunton/Exeter, Bristol-Swindon, Bristol-Oxford and additionally enhanced services on the Bristol-Yeovil corridor and on the Bristol-Cheltenham corridor.
- The wording around rolling stock has been changed to state new carbon-neutral fleet of rolling stock to meet current and future demand.
- The document still advocates additional stops at Worle as an interchange for Weston-super-Mare and Bristol Airport and Bridgwater as an interchange for Hinkley Point C.
- The new version removes references to a “return of rail services into Brunel’s Grade 1 listed Passenger Shed” at Bristol Temple Meads. FoSBR note: The latest plans for Temple Meads include ground-level pedestrian access to the northern entrance which would prevent this use, and platforms 0 and 1 will be extended only to the point where the path crosses. This will avoid the need for a subway or bridge to cross these tracks.
- WECA support the proposals for Bristol East Junction. FoSBR note: Boris Johnson formally announced funding for this upgrade on 11th February 2020.
- The wording on further stations remains the same other than that Pilning is a welcome addition: “During the life of JLTP4 and the Strategic Rail Programme, we will consider extending services beyond Henbury and new stations at Charfield, St Annes Park, Saltford, Ashton Gate and Constable Road, and new links to Thornbury, Pilning and Bristol Airport. We will also work with planning colleagues to review the need to safeguard disused rail lines where they could have a future role to play.”
Section 6: Connectivity beyond the West of England – Strategic Rail
For connectivity beyond the West of England, the latest version of the JLTP4 continues to mention the significance of Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway, Bath and Weston-super-Mare.
- “The full electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Bristol Temple Meads, via Bath Spa and Bristol Parkway, remains an aspiration, as does the extension of electrification from Birmingham to Bristol and on to Weston-super-Mare. As well as delivering a carbon neutral network it will bring benefits to long distance services and provide the longer-term opportunity to link into HS2 (High Speed 2).”
- Also recognition of the resilience issues west of Exeter near the Dawlish sea wall
- Also recognition of the slow regional services to Weymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth and the necessity to change trains for Bournemouth and Poole resulting in 70-mile (road) journey taking 3 hours by train
- Bristol to Birmingham and HS2 – Midlands Connect proposal for two extra trains per hour (one from Temple Meads, one from South Wales via Parkway) linking to Moor Street station for HS2 services to the North at Curzon Street.
- Western Rail Link to Heathrow – through services from Bristol, South West and South Wales.
- Three train per hour IET service from London Paddington to Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads
- Hourly IET service London Paddington to Exeter via Taunton and Weston-super-Mare.
In the section on “Identify opportunities to manage the impact of Severn Bridge tolls removal” there is a baffling omission of any mention of Pilning.
In summary, FoSBR are pleased that rail elements progressed from draft into the final JLTP4. We are pleased that Charfield is being funded by the WECA Investment Fund and that Pilning is at least name-checked.
We are disappointed that MetroWest delivery dates continue to slip. We are disappointed that schemes such as Thornbury and Henbury Loop are not promoted from long-term aspirations and that stations at St Annes Park, Saltford, Ashton Gate and Constable Road are not prioritised above “Early investment schemes under development”. Also, the crucial remodelling of Westerleigh Junction is mentioned only under “Early Investment schemes under development”.
FoSBR continue to recommend that the JLTP4, and the ongoing WECA rail study, should include stations at Coalpit Heath, Long Ashton/Flax Bourton, Chittening for Severnside and Uphill/Locking as described in the FoSBR Plan for Rail.
Details of exact wording changes are italicised below:
Section 6: Connectivity beyond the West of England
The West of England lies at the confluence of a number of frequent long-distance inter-city and regional train services. Great Western Railway (GWR) links the region with inter-city trains to London, South Wales and the South West, and regional trains between South Wales and the south coast via Salisbury. CrossCountry intercity train services provide links to the Midlands, the North, Scotland and the far South West, and South Western Railway provide services to London Waterloo.
Bristol Temple Meads station is a nationally significant rail interchange, as well as a vital regional and local transport interchange and gateway to the city and wider region, including Bristol Airport. The station has over 11 million passengers passing through each year, with usage anticipated to reach 22 million by 2030. Sitting at the heart of the region, the station has the potential to be the best connected and most productive area within the West of England; it is key to delivering other transport infrastructure.
The station is managed by Network Rail, who along with WECA, Homes England and Bristol City Council is leading on the development of a masterplan to ensure the station has the capacity, design and quality it needs to meet its role. New northern and eastern entrances will be provided along with new internal passenger circulation routes, additional platform capacity, a new transport interchange and expanded cycle parking. The redevelopment of Temple Meads station will promote sustainable transport choices for trips to and from the station and surrounding area, providing attractive interchange facilities for bus users, pedestrians and cyclists. This will allow users to secure their bike and continue by bus or train, thereby facilitating multimodal trips.
Bristol Temple Meads has a critical regeneration role in unlocking and serving as the catalyst for growth, from the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and St Philips Marsh to development areas across the West of England. The ‘Temple Quarter’ will see new homes and employment space being delivered, the University of Bristol’s new Enterprise Campus and other retail and leisure uses.
We will work with Network Rail, Homes England, Bristol City Council, the University of Bristol, transport operators, developers and other delivery agents to transform Bristol Temple Meads into a regional interchange, enabling seamless connections with sustainable modes and providing new cycling and walking links to local destinations.
Bristol Parkway, located on the London to South Wales and cross-country routes, is also a principal station providing access to education and employment facilities, metrobus and offering faster services to London than from Temple Meads. Bath Spa station, the main gateway to the region for tourists, is served by services from South Wales to the south coast, in addition to trains to London.
Weston-super-Mare station is located on a single line loop off the main line and is served by a very limited number of long-distance trains. As a result, there is an aspiration to provide an hourly service from Weston-super-Mare to London. Worle station, on the eastern side of the town, could provide an alternative stop for services remaining on the main line, a [Jan20 adds parkway style] interchange for Weston-super-Mare and a gateway for Bristol Airport.
We will continue to work with our neighbouring local authorities to support service and infrastructure improvements that would benefit West of England residents and businesses..
The full electrification of the Great Western Main Line to Bristol Temple Meads, via Bath Spa and Bristol Parkway, remains an aspiration, as does the extension of electrification from Birmingham to Bristol and on to Weston-super-Mare. As well as delivering a carbon neutral network it will bring benefits to long distance services and provide the longer-term opportunity to link into HS2 (High Speed 2).
[Jan20 version] We recognise there are considerable capacity constraints around Bristol and the wider rail network. A high-level report, the Greater Bristol Area Rail Feasibility Study jointly commissioned by the Department for Transport and WECA, identified enhancements and the capacity improvements required to deliver them. This work will now feed into the joint Network Rail and WECA Strategic Rail Programme for a 10-year delivery plan and 25- year Strategic Outline Business Case. The Williams Rail Review may provide further opportunities for greater WECA involvement in services and investment and these will be explored.
[Jan19 version] We recognise there are considerable capacity constraints around Bristol. A high level strategy for potential rail interventions over a ten-year time time frame, covering Control Period 6 and Control Period 7 (2019-2029), and the Joint Spatial Plan to 2036, will be produced with the rail industry.
Train services to and from the region also suffer from short-term resilience and operational issues. These include the closure of the line west of Exeter following severe weather damage to the sea wall in the Dawlish area and train operator staff shortages, faults with rolling stock and signal failures.
Although frequent, north-south public transport connections are poor between Bristol and Bath and the south coast. Slow regional or local stopping rail services operate to Weymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth. Travelling to Bournemouth and Poole requires a change of trains, meaning that the 70-mile road journey from Bristol to Poole takes around 3 hours by train. Coaches do not currently offer a direct or convenient alternative to rail either, with trips to the south coast requiring a journey via London. The Western Gateway’s Rail Strategy aims to address these connectivity issues. [Jan20 added]
Other key connectivity aspirations for the JLTP4 are: [Jan20 added]
- Bristol to Birmingham and HS2 – Midlands Connect proposal for two extra trains per hour (one from Temple Meads, one from South Wales via Parkway) linking to Moor Street station for HS2 services to the North at Curzon Street
- Western Rail Link to Heathrow – through services from Bristol, South West and South Wales
- Three train per hour IET service from London Paddington to Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads
- Hourly IET service London Paddington to Exeter via Taunton and Weston-super-Mare
[Jan20 version] We will work jointly with Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the franchise and freight operators to produce a 10 Year Delivery Plan and 25 Year Strategic Outline Business Case as part of the Strategic Rail Programme for the West of England. The Programme will improve network capacity and resilience, provide infrastructure and rolling stock enhancements and deliver improvement schemes. This includes better long- distance rail links to the South West, South Coast, South Wales, London and the Midlands.
[Jan19 version] We will develop a joint team with Network Rail, the Department for Transport and the franchise operators to prepare a feasibility study to improve network capacity, provide infrastructure and rolling stock enhancements and deliver improvement schemes. This includes better long-distance rail links to the South West, London and the Midlands, and new stops including Bridgwater and Worle.
Section 7: Connectivity within the West of England
We want to transform suburban rail services in the West of England with new and high frequency turn up and go services, new lines and new stations. Stations will be brought up to a new high standard with improved passenger facilities and levels of accessibility, making them step free to enable all passengers to travel by train. Modern ticketing, fully integrated with local bus services, will make all journeys seamless.
The branding of services, information and stations will be made consistent, where possible. This will provide passengers with the confidence they are using an integrated network of fast and frequent services. This could be extended across other modes to provide one transport network, be it buses, trams, trains, ferries, cycles or walking all under the one brand.
Our proposed and well advanced MetroWest programme will deliver by 2023/24 [Jan19 version says 2021/2022]:
- Half hourly services on the Severn Beach to Bath Spa and Westbury Lines. This is forecast to generate 0.6 million passengers a year
- Reopening of the Portishead Line in 2024 [Jan19 no date] with initially an hourly service (half hourly aspiration) to Bristol Temple Meads and new stations at Portishead and Pill. This is forecast to generate 0.4 million passengers a year
- Re-opening of the Henbury Line with new stations at Henbury and North Filton to serve Cribbs Patchway New Neighbourhood (5,700 new homes) and if approved the new Bristol Arena. This is forecast to generate 0.4 million new passengers a year
- New station at Ashley Down on the Filton Bank
- Half hourly services between Bristol Temple Meads and Yate (3,000 new homes) by 2022 [Jan19 2021], with possible extension to Gloucester. This is forecast to generate 0.25 million new passengers a year
- Stations to be brought up to a new MetroWest high standard of passenger facilities, with step free access
- New station at Portway, part funded by the New Stations Fund, to serve the adjacent Park & Ride site
- New station at Charfield funded through the WECA Investment Fund to support housing growth [added Jan20]
- MetroWest services to be included and funded by the Department for Transport
To date, over £26m [Jan19 £12m] has been invested by the West of England in developing MetroWest. It remains our rail priority.
We will deliver passenger rail service and capacity improvements, station upgrades and new stations, including MetroWest Phases 1 and 2.
Building on MetroWest we want to see new turn up and go style services alongside enhanced routes across the local network. We will work on:
Three trains per hour on the Severn Beach Line [Jan19 says 15 minute service, the Clifton Down to Bath Spa route could be the first to benefit from this. Future expansion could see turn up and go services between Bristol Temple Meads and Henbury, Yate, Portishead and Weston-super-Mare.]
- Four trains per hour for local stations between Bristol Temple Meads and Westbury [added Jan20]
- Two trains per hour on the Henbury Line with one of these services going to Yate/Gloucester via Bristol Parkway [added Jan20)
- Strategic rail-based Park & Ride and parkway stations [added Jan20]
- Enhanced services on the Cardiff to Portsmouth, Bristol to Taunton/Exeter including Yatton and Nailsea & Backwell, Bristol to Yeovil [added Jan20] and Weymouth, Bristol to Gloucester/Cheltenham [added Jan20] and Bristol to Swindon routes
- New Bristol to Oxford via Bath Spa service with links to East-West Rail
- Additional stops at Worle (as the gateway and interchange for Weston-super-Mare and Bristol Airport) and Bridgwater (for Hinkley Point C) [Jan19 said “These may be secured through the new CrossCountry franchise.”]
- New carbon neutral [added Jan20] fleet of rolling stock to meet current and future demand
- Station enhancements including longer platforms to support housing and employment growth [added Jan20]
Through the Great Western, Cross Country and South Western and Wales & Borders Franchises, Western Gateway Rail Strategy and the joint WECA and Network Rail Strategic Rail Programme we will work to secure new and enhanced services. [added Jan20]
Bristol East Junction remodelling remains key to our plans, enabling MetroWest services and providing the capacity to run more trains. We also recognise the importance of platform and concourse and interchange works at Bristol Temple Meads as part of the Temple Quarter Master Plan to improve capacity. [resignalling deleted in Jan20]
Temple Meads, as highlighted in Section 6, acts as a critical transport interchange for central Bristol, the West of England and wider region, providing interchange with the mass transit and metrobus networks. [Jan20 deletes: There is a longer-term aspiration for the return of rail services into Brunel’s Grade 1 listed Passenger Shed – one of the oldest stations in the world. This would increase platform capacity, also facilitating some improvements in local frequencies further afield.]
We support the proposals for Bristol East Junction and the redevelopment of Bristol Temple Meads station and surrounding area. [Jan20 deletes: and for bringing Platforms 0 and 1 in the Midland Shed back into use]
During the life of JLTP4 and the Strategic Rail Programme, we will consider extending services beyond Henbury and new stations [Jan20 deletes: to support the JSP] at Charfield, St Annes Park, Saltford, Ashton Gate and Constable Road, and new links to Thornbury, Pilning [added Jan20] and Bristol Airport. We will also work with planning colleagues to review the need to safeguard disused rail lines where they could have a future role to play.
We will consider how new technologies can help deliver rail schemes, including options for light rail and tram trains, and how infrastructure costs can be reduced and affordable modern services can be delivered.
We will work with train operators, the Severnside Community Rail Partnerships and others to promote rail travel and improve facilities at stations, including ticketing and perception of safety and security.
Major Scheme Details
C2 Temple Quarter masterplan
Masterplan to cover the 70-hectare development zone, to feature a mixed-use quarter comprising up to 11,000 homes and a revitalised transport interchange, including improvements to Temple Meads railway station. The masterplan will include station capacity improvements, better access to Temple Meads and the area, with new public space and improvements to the public realm. The project will also involve a sensitive adaptation, development and protection of the grade 1 listed station, which was designed by Brunel. [unchanged]
C3 MetroWest Phase 1
Upgraded train services to half-hourly connections for Severn Beach Line and the Bath Spa to Bristol line. Reopening the Portishead Line to passenger services with an hourly service is a priority for WoE authorities. New station at Portishead and the reopening of former Pill Station.
HRA Mitigation [added for Jan20]
The MetroWest Phase 1 project level HRA proposes a series of mitigation measures, including implementing protective measures during scheme construction which would reduce the adverse effects on the Avon Gorge Woodlands SAC. However, it is not possible to avoid the loss of up to 0.71ha of woodland within the SAC and therefore an adverse effect on this SAC remains following mitigation.
The project level HRA has therefore proceeded to evaluate the alternatives to the MetroWest Phase 1 scheme, however, it has not been possible to identify any feasible alternatives to this scheme. It is therefore necessary for this scheme to advance to the ‘IROPI test’ (imperative reasons of overriding public interest). The IROPI that have been considered within the project level HRA relates to human health, public safety and important environmental benefits. Compensatory measures are also provided within the project level HRA, including habitat management and planting of additional woodland with whitebeams. However, as a result of the European Court of Justice interpretation of the Habitats Directive, these measures cannot be taken into account in the assessment of the implications of the project.
C4 MetroWest Phase 2
Reopening of Henbury line to an hourly spur and increase train services to Yate. New stations at Henbury, North Filton and Ashley Down. [unchanged]
Early investment schemes under development
E4 Passenger Rail Service and Capacity Improvements, Station Upgrades and New Stations Package
Package of rail improvement measures: Rail service improvements, bringing the frequency of local rail services up to a minimum of 2 tph, plus hourly rail services from Weston-super-Mare to London.
- Infrastructure to support service improvements including double tracks on the loop line between Weston Railway Station, reinstating the southern chord at Weston-super-Mare, and the Herluin Way to Locking Road Link (bridge replacement to enable width for double tracking).
- Longer rolling stock to cater for increased demand, in conjunction with longer platforms where required (including Worle, Nailsea & Backwell and Yatton), with higher quality rolling stock from all stations.
- Station upgrades for existing rail stations with a focus on developing transport interchanges [Jan20 deletes hubs] (interchange with metrobus, Mass Transit, bus services and cycle and car parking [added Jan20] provision), in conjunction with schemes to improve access to existing rail stations by sustainable modes on key routes to stations across the West of England.
- New railway stations at the following locations: Constable Road, Bristol; Ashton Gate, Bristol; St Annes, Brislington, Bristol; Saltford, Bath & North East Somerset. Stations to be delivered with associated infrastructure: passenger waiting facilities, bus stops, cycle stands, car parking, real-time information and be fully Equality Act compliant.
- Westerleigh junction upgrade
[above largely unchanged, some details changed as shown]
Other longer-term opportunities
L1 Strategic Rail and Road Freight Package
Freight consolidation centre (rail) at Avonmouth, network loading gauge enhancements on railway network, sustainable distribution projects at key stations (initially Bristol Temple Meads), and restrictions on HGV movements.
HRA Mitigation [added for Jan20]
The JLTP4 HRA recommends that this scheme is subject to a project-level HRA when sufficient scheme information is available. If a Likely Significant Effect (LSE) is screened-in during the project level HRA then an Appropriate Assessment should be undertaken. The Appropriate Assessment should input into the design and location of this scheme to ensure no adverse effect on European sites occur. Permission should only be granted and this scheme allowed to go ahead if the Appropriate Assessment are able to conclude that no adverse effects will occur on European sites.
L4 Henbury Loop rail services
Orbital rail service around north Bristol, introduction of passenger services along freight line. [unchanged]
L5 Rail services to Thornbury
This includes the reopening of the line to passenger services to Thornbury. Assumes the completion of the Westerleigh junction upgrade. [unchanged]