FoSBR have submitted a response to the Western Gateway Rail Strategy Consultation. We call on them to increase rail investment, and to halt their £440 million road-building plan.
Western Gateway is a Sub-national Transport Body (STB). Its role is to strengthen travel connections to local, national and international markets. It covers Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP), Bristol, Bath and North-East Somerset (B&NES), Dorset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The area is home to over 3 million people.
We hope that Western Gateway will be effective in getting funding for pubic transport. The South-West, like other areas outside of the South-East, has been short-changed for decades.
Our response highlights poor connectivity, both by rail and road, between the two biggest economic centres in the region – Bristol and Bath, and Bournmouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP). We believe there is an opportunity to create a strategic rail link between these centres, potentially using old rail corridors. This would require significant investment. But East-West Rail, the project to reopen the long-closed line between Oxford and Cambridge, shows that such things are possible if the political will exists.
We also point out quick wins. There are (relatively!) straightforward opportunities to restore capacity removed when railways were seen to be in decline.
For example re-doubling the track on the section of line between Clifton Down Station and Narroways Junction would allow for much better frequency and reliability on the Severn Beach Line. Re-opening Platform 4 at Westbury, Wiltshire would allow better flexibility for local services.
FoSBR Plan for Rail
FoSBR’s Plan for Rail gives details of stations and lines we wish to see reopened. Some of these are already included in the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest Project, but we call for this to be expanded and accelerated to cover additional lines such as the Thornbury Branch and the full Henbury Loop.
Finally, we believe the Western Gateway Rail Strategy should encourage the development of local stations as transport and retail hubs. In some cases this could be funded by developers.
Western Gateway intend to adopt their high-level strategic plan by Spring 2021, with a robust Strategic Transport Plan in place by 2024.
We will keep you informed!