The Bristol Rail Campaign (FoSBR) Plan for Rail delivers the backbone of a sustainable transport system. It does this by taking advantage of the region’s biggest underused asset: its suburban rail network. Bristol, Bath and the West of England is crossed by railway lines. But the trains are infrequent. Many places have no local train station. And some lines are only used by freight trains.
Bristol Rail Campaign welcomes the West of England Combined Authority (WECA)’s MetroWest rail plan. This will add some new routes and new rail stations. But it doesn’t go far enough, and it’s happening too slowly. We are campaigning for more passenger rail routes, more stations, and more frequent trains. And we want them sooner rather than later.
Local lines must be electrified to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions. The rail network needs to be fully integrated with buses, cycling and walking routes. We need a single simple ticketing system to make public transport easy to use.
Our Plan for Rail shows that almost all of the network is already in place. But it isn’t being exploited. Most of the enhancements we need for a turn-up-and-go metro service can be made using land the railway already owns. Often this can be done by reinstating stations and tracks that were removed in the past.
Severn Beach Line
The Severn Beach line is now mostly single track. Trains can only cross each other at Avonmouth and Clifton Down, where there are two track sections. Single track greatly limits the number of trains that can be run. It also compounds delays. But the line was originally double-tracked all the way to Avonmouth, so there should be room to install a second track without needing any new land.
WECA’s 10-year Rail Plan proposes to re-double the track from Narroways Junction, just north of Stapleton Road, to a point just south of Montpelier station. This will allow for a three trains per hour service. We wish to extend this two-tracked section through Clifton Down station, allowing for a reliable every-15-minutes service to Avonmouth. To do this it will be necessary to reinstate the disused second platforms at Redland and Montpelier stations, and make them accessible.
A new station at Portway Park & Ride opened in 2023.
Severn Beach to Yate, and Henbury Loop
Bristol Rail Campaign wish to see proposed services along the Henbury Line extended, via a new station at Chittening, to connect with the Severn Beach line towards Clifton Down. This route is known as the ‘Henbury Loop’. However level crossing capacity between Avonmouth and Severn Beach currently limits the number of trains that could run round this loop.
YTL, who are developing a new arena in the old Brabazon Hangar at North Filton, would like to see trains from North Filton serving Bristol Parkway Station. This aspiration is supported by the West of England’s proposal for a service from Severn Beach to Yate, via a new curve near Holesmouth Junction.
Work is well under way on a new station at Ashley Down, between Stapleton Road and Filton Abbey Wood stations. This will be served by hourly trains to new stations at North Filton (for the YTL Arena and Brabazon area) and Henbury.
South Gloucestershire Council approved plans for North Filton Station in early 2023. Network Rail submitted a planning application for Henbury Station in August 2023.
Bristol Rail Campaign welcomes plans for Ashley Down Station to open ahead of the other Henbury Line stations, with services to other local destinations potentially calling there.
We support local residents calling for a new local station for Lockleaze, between Ashley Down Station and Filton Abbey Wood.
Stations between Bristol Parkway, Yate and Gloucester, and the Thornbury line
MetroWest trains started running half-hourly between Bristol and Gloucester via Yate in 2023. Plans for a new station at Charfield were submitted in 2022.
Bristol Rail Campaign supports Stonehouse Town Council’s campaign for a new station at Stroudwater, near where the Bristol to Gloucester line crosses Bristol Road.
We have also sought local support for a new station at Coalpit Heath.
The line from Yate to Thornbury has been cut short at Tytherington Quarry, about 1.5km east of the old site of Thornbury station. This line passed under the A38 to Thornbury through Grovesend Tunnel, which is in private ownership but appears to be in good condition. A new location would need to be found for Thornbury Station. Junction capacity near Yate will also need to be improved to allow regular trains to access the branch.
Bristol Rail Campaign believes that this line could provide a quick, sustainable, high quality transport option for the 12,000 people who live in Thornbury. But WECA currently has no committed plans to reinstate passenger trains on this route.
Network Rail’s Bristol to Birmingham Corridor Strategic Rail Study, published in June 2021, proposes a number of improvements. These include potentially adding extra tracks between Bristol Parkway and Westerleigh Junction. This would greatly improve the prospects for new services on these routes.
Bristol Rail Campaign supports Wiltshire Council’s bid to the Department for Transport ‘Restoring your Railway’ Ideas Fund for a new station at Corsham.
The proposed new two-platform station, which has widespread backing, would be situated on the Great Western Main Line. It would provide easy access to MOD Corsham, the largest employer in the town.
Stations between Bristol and Bath
These proposed stations are on a busy two-track main line. Services would have to share this with fast trains from Bristol to London and from Cardiff to Portsmouth. Without investment in passing loops, there may not be sufficient line capacity to allow specific trains to stop at both stations. However there may be capacity for trains to stop at these stations alternately. We accept that this alternating service may be necessary to begin with, but will continue to press for capacity upgrades to allow an every-15-minutes service to both stations.
Plans for a new hourly train service to Portishead were approved by the Planning Inspectorate in 2022. This service is a key part of the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest programme. It will serve new stations at Portishead and Pill, before joining the main line from Exeter to Bristol at Parson Street.
Further detailed design work should be completed in 2024. The means trains could be running to Portishead in 2026.
The original business case proposed a half-hourly service, but this was changed to hourly to save costs. Experience elsewhere suggests that passenger demand will be higher than the business case assumed. We will, therefore, continue to press for a half-hourly service. The Bristol Rail Campaign Plan for Rail also includes additional stations at Portbury, serving the village and employment area, and Ashton Gate, serving the football stadium as well as large parts of Southville and Ashton. Bristol City Council is ‘exploring’ Ashton Gate Station as an option in its Corporate Strategy for 2022-27.
Stations between Bristol Temple Meads and Weston super Mare
WECA’s 10-year rail plan, backed by Network Rail’s Bristol West Capacity Enhancement programme, proposes to reinstate four tracks between Bristol Temple Meads and Parson Street. This will provide capacity for an every-15-minutes service to these stations.
Bristol Rail Campaign have fought hard for access improvements to Bedminster station as part of the Bedminster Green and Whitehouse Lane developments.
We seek local support for a new station at Long Ashton, near Bristol.
Bristol Rail Campaign seeks local support for a new station at Uphill near Weston-super-Mare.
Pilning and South Wales
Pilning Station is on the South Wales Main Line, about 2.5km from the English portal of the Severn Tunnel. The station has a minimal service since Network Rail removed its footbridge in 2016. Two trains a week stop there, both going east, on Saturdays only.
Bristol Rail Campaign is campaigning with Pilning Station Group to reinstate the footbridge and improve the service at Pilning Station. Avonmouth Severnside Enterprise Area is expected to create 25,000 jobs in the area, and the new junction on the M49 motorway could allow for a park-and-ride-type station. Its location on the Main Line makes Pilning Station well placed for commuters from South Wales. The Welsh Government’s plans to open six new stations between Cardiff and Severn Tunnel Junction contrast starkly with developments this side of the Severn.