Not exactly the most glamorous location on our rail system, but Bristol East Junction (BEJ) is extremely important for our local rail services.
As its name suggests, it 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 current layout of BEJ does not optimise capacity and investment is required. The 2016 Network Rail scope of works was 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 (Note: electrification to Bristol Temple Meads was subsequently deferred).
Network Rail indicated that 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 Intercity Express Programme (IEP) timetable (an initial version of which is coming into operation in December 2019)
- and all capacity requirements up to year 2043 (including increased frequency of trains in the MetroWest timetable – Network Rail have indicated that BEJ is vital for MetroWest Phase 2 and desirable for Phase 1).
Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees, writes to the DfT to ask for BEJ as compensation for the delay in electrification.
DfT offer £10m for the development study from the savings from the deferred electrification to Bristol Temple Meads.
Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling visits Bristol to discuss the region’s rail plans. He meets Tim Bowles (WECA Mayor) and Mark Langman (Network Rail’s MD for Wales and Western) to discuss BEJ. Grayling expresses support for the scheme and it is announced that the DfT is working with Network Rail to assess the business case and unlock the funding to engineer the scheme.
Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps announces the DfT five-year Rail Network Enhancements Pipeline (RNEP) for Control Period 6 (CP6 2019-2024) outlining 58 projects that span over £10bn and 58 projects.
Individual schemes seeking DfT funding need to progress through the five-step decision gateways before moving into delivery, the first step being ‘decision to initiate’, moving on to development, design, delivery and then finally to ‘deploy’.
Bristol East Junction is in the final ‘decision to design’ stage.
Work starts on the renewal of a substation near Oxford Street in St Philips.
The Network Rail website states that
Track through the junction will be replaced in multiple phases from late April 2020 until June 2021. During 2020, most of this work will be carried out over Saturday nights (starting late February) as well as some Sundays and a number of full weekend shifts.
The programme for construction can be found on the Network Rail website here.
During his announcement giving the go-ahead to HS2, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirms funding for the Bristol East Junction upgrade. He describes the junction as a “major pinch point” for congestion in the South West’s railway network.