Pilning Station is on the South Wales Main Line, to the west of Patchway, about 2.5km from the English portal of the Severn Tunnel. It currently has a minimal service, but nearby development means it could once again become a very useful transport hub.
Pilning has a particularly rich railway history, involving two station sites and multiple closures and re-openings.
Service improvements at Pilning are supported by both the Pilning Station Group and Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. 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, but currently also poorly served, Severn Beach station.
From December 2019, Pilning services (Saturday only, eastbound only) depart at 8.33 and 14.33. According to Pilning Station Group, the previous timings of 8.34 and 15.34 were better for people who use this limited service for a day out.
GWR has repeatedly rebuffed requests for extra services. They say that stopping trains at Pilning impacts long distance services, due to its main line location.
The South East Wales and West of England Business Link (SEWWEB) campaign group suggest a plan to improve transport links along the corridor between North Somerset, Temple Meads, east Bristol, north Bristol and the South-East Wales commuter belt. Their proposals include stations at Aztec West and Pilning, and improved services to Patchway. Their campaign wins Railfuture’s Oliver Lovell Award for best new group.
SEWWEB propose replacing the existing Pilning station with one 900 metres further west at the point where the Cross Hands Road (B4055) crosses the four-tracked railway. This location could allow easy access to Pilning village, bus routes and local business parks.
Another proposal suggests moving Pilning station to the point where the main A403 crosses the (two-tracked) railway and creating a combined rail/coach interchange.
Any location needs to tie in with planned new road developments. For example, there now a junction on the M49 at Farm Lane with stubs “to support future development”.
Pilning Station Group do not endorse the SEWWEB blueprint, worrying that they shift the campaign focus from the station’s survival to the station’s location.
Network Rail demolish the footbridge. There is now no access to the westbound platform (towards Wales). Passengers returning from Bristol to Pilning now have to travel on to Severn Tunnel Junction, cross over the bridge there and catch a return train to reach Pilning.
FoSBR submit statements to the West of England Partnership Joint Transport Board (WEP JTB) and the Strategic Leaders Board (SLB) about the lack of proper consultation. FoSBR write to the Secretary of State for Transport.
A ‘Save Pilning Station’ campaign meeting is held at Pilning station. Speakers from Pilning Parish Council, FoSBR, SevernNet and local residents explain the potential of Pilning. The meeting is reported in the South Gloucestershire Gazette. Pilning Parish Council write to the Secretary of State for Transport. Pilning residents complete a transport questionnaire and sign a petition.
Pilning Station Group is re-launched.
Network Rail hold a drop-in session at Pilning, at which they state that few people used the service from Pilning Station even when it had a daily service. They claim that the footbridge is life-expired, and that in any case local people prefer to use Severn Beach Station. Finally they point out that the local authorities have not included Pilning Station in their MetroWest plans.
These claims ignore the facts that Severn Beach Station does not provide a usable service for people going to South Wales, and that planned development is likely to bring tens of thousands of new jobs to the area.
On 21st April 2016 Network Rail circulate a letter to an unknown distribution list asking for comments on footbridge removal with a deadline of 23rd May 2016. On 25th May 2016 they circulate another electronic letter stating that the consultation period had ended, any objections received had been “satisfactorily resolved” and as such the works can now be undertaken.
Because of electrification being carried out from London to Cardiff, some bridges along the route have to be raised or replaced to permit sufficient clearance above the overhead lines. FoSBR become aware of a rumour that Network Rail plan to remove Pilning footbridge and do not intend to replace it. This would remove access to the westbound platform and therefore no westbound services could call at PIlning.
Pilning service further reduced to 2 trains per week.
Pilning service declines from 20 trains per day to 2 trains per day.
Pilning High Level station reverts to the name Pilning.
Pilning High Level Motorail services cease when Severn Bridge opens allowing direct road travel between Bristol and South Wales.
Pilning Low Level closes when passenger services between Pilning and Severn Beach are withdrawn. Freight movements between Pilning and Avonmouth continue until 1968.
Original station (Pilning Low Level) re-opens as the line from Pilning to Severn Beach (now a popular seaside resort) is upgraded to passenger traffic. The line from Avonmouth to Severn Beach was upgraded in 1922.
GWR introduce a Motorail service through the Severn Tunnel, operating between Pilning High Level and Severn Tunnel Junction. Vehicles are loaded onto special wagons attached to passenger trains.
GWR build a new freight branch via Pilning Low Level to Avonmouth.
Station re-sited a short distance away at Pilning High Level when the Severn Tunnel opens. The new station opens with the first passenger services through the tunnel on 1 December 1886. The original Pilning (Low Level) closes.
Station opens at Pilning on the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway (BSWUR). The railway runs from Bristol Temple Meads to New Passage on the banks of the Severn, from where passengers transfer onto a ferry to cross the river into Wales.