Thornbury is a town of over 12,000 people, which could expand dramatically if the development of Buckover Garden Village goes ahead. Most of the track of the Thornbury branch line is still in place, and in use by freight trains. The site of Thornbury Station was on Midland Way, roughly where the Tesco supermarket now stands.
The Thornbury branch line could provide high quality sustainable transport for this area.
Bristol Rail Campaign find much enthusiasm for rail re-opening from Thornbury residents. Accidents or breakdowns on the Midland Way “ring road” cause gridlock in the town and commuters are badly affected by incidents on the A38, M5 and M4. The MetroBus transport solution proposed by WECA will struggle to achieve continuous segregation from the congestion.
Junction constraints at Yate and Westerleigh mean that this line would be difficult to reopen without significant investment. However Network Rail’s aspiration to increase capacity between Bristol Parkway and Yate could transform this situation.
Network Rail publish Bristol to Birmingham Corridor Strategic Study. This proposes four-tracking the main line from Bristol Parkway through Westerleigh Junction, potentially providing the access and capacity needed for a Thornbury service.
Network Rail relay the freight headshunt track to the east of the A38. This track follows the southern edge of the cutting embankment and therefore does not align with the A38 bridge and Grovesend tunnel.
WECA’s draft Joint Local Transport Plan 4 (JLTP4) includes the re-opening of stations at Constable Road, Charfield, St Anne’s, Saltford and Ashton Gate. The Thornbury Line and Henbury Loop are included as “Other longer-term opportunities – a set of aspirational schemes for consideration in the longer-term”.
South Gloucestershire Council notify local residents that the Tytherington to Yate freight line will re-open for one train per day from Tytherington Quarry to Avonmouth. Network Rail write to local residents:
This freight line has three level crossings, including two fitted with audible alarms, it is vital that people living nearby are aware of the change of activity to the track. From Monday 26th November 2018 the line will once again be live. For your safety, please be aware that the crossings are not manned and no barriers placed at the level crossings. The track is now classed as operational.
FoSBR meet Matthew Riddle (then Chair of South Gloucestershire Council) to promote Thornbury’s potential and to look at various strategic points along the rail route from Yate to Thornbury.
There are further engineering issues that require solution:
- Extending the service to Thornbury from Yate would require further alterations at Yate Middle Junction, as at present trains from Thornbury cannot reach the southbound platform at Yate from the junction
- There are three level crossings which may not be acceptable to Network Rail on a passenger line:
- B4059, north of Iron Acton (flashing warning lights, mechanised barriers)
- B4058 Bristol Road, Iron Acton by-pass, west of Iron Acton (flashing warning lights, mechanised barriers)
- Latteridge Road/Station Road, south of Iron Acton (flashing warning lights, no barriers)
- The line past the quarry sidings from Grovesend Overbridge forms the headshunt for long aggregate trains. The freight track west of Grovesend Overbridge does not follow the original alignment of the passenger route; it runs along the south of the cutting embankment between Grovesend Overbridge as far as the A38 bridge. This level was created by gravel infill for a level formation for quarry trains. The track along the base of the cutting was lifted after Thornbury line closure in 1966. A new passenger line would need to follow this (deep) original alignment to meet the central arch of the A38 bridge and Grovesend Tunnel west of the A38.
- Thornbury station was originally located opposite Screwfix on the Midland Way. As an April 2012 Halcrow report indicated, siting the station in the original location would require demolition of a dozen residential properties and relaying track along a footpath (total cost £38m at that time). A new railway station would likely be located east of town near the Midland Way/Grovesend Road roundabout. The location would be within walking distance for many in Thornbury but it would need linking orbital bus routes from other areas of Thornbury and possibly the new Thornbury Fields and Buckover Garden Village developments.
At the West of England Joint Committee meeting, Tina Biggs from FoSBR gives a statement suggesting solution/mitigation of the perceived problems and encouraging WECA to leave Thornbury line re-opening as an option for the longer term.
Tytherington quarry re-opened by operators Hanson. In late 2017 Network Rail carry out line clearance for freight as far as Tytherington Quarry.
WECA outline their arguments against Thornbury passenger rail re-opening in a letter sent to local MP Luke Hall:
As part of the work and consultation on the Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study suggestions were raised to introduce new rail services to Thornbury, making use of the line serving Tytherington Quarry.
There are, however, several challenges in delivering this proposal.
• The former rail alignment into Thornbury is now occupied by an industrial estate and there is no practical routing into the town. The station would, therefore, need to be located on the edge of Thornbury, a significant distance from the town centre, which would constrain the potential catchment area within walking distance.
• Under the A38 the Grovesend tunnel would need to be reopened, and its current condition is unknown. Experience with MetroWest Phase 1 and the Portishead Line demonstrates that this is a major risk for rail projects.
• It would also be necessary to upgrade the whole line from Yate to cater for passenger services.
• There is only capacity for one more rail service through Westerleigh Junction, and this is currently proposed to serve Yate and stations to Gloucester.
• Comparison of potential demand demonstrates that there is a much stronger case for the additional train to serve a new station at Charfield, as proposed in the Joint Spatial Plan.
Hence unfortunately there is little realistic prospect of introducing new rail services to Thornbury and for this reason it is not going to be included in the final Joint Transport Vision. A more effective means of connecting Thornbury to the North Fringe and Bristol will be provided by the proposed extension of MetroBus.
Network Rail designates the line “Out of Use (temporary)”.
Goods traffic ceases. The line as far as Tytherington continues to be used for quarry traffic.
Passenger services to Thornbury, Tytherington and Iron Acton stations cease.