WECA Strategic Rail Investment Plan

WECA Strategic Rail Investment plan

The West of England Combined Authority (WECA)’s West of England Joint Committee approved their 10 year delivery plan for Strategic Rail Investment on 4th December 2020. The plan sets out projects planned for delivery up to 2030, and also looks at developing schemes for delivery in 2030 to 2045.

The WECA Rail Plan is a large document. Below is a flavour of what it proposes:

2020 to 2025

Existing projects to be delivered in the next five years include MetroWest, Portway Station and Bristol East Junction. At Bristol Temple Meads, the eastern entrance to the new University of Bristol campus and Temple Quarter will be created by extending the existing subway through the wall at platforms 13 and 15. Temple Meads will be rewired and re-roofed.

Charfield Station, and New Stations Fund and perhaps Restoring your Railway ideas may also be delivered in this period.

The WECA plan proposes bringing forward work to allow a half-hourly service from Temple Meads to Westbury, which requires improvements to three level crossings. This could allow the half-hourly service from Avonmouth to Westbury to start in December 2021.

Improved shelters, wayfinding and seating are proposed for Freshford, Lawrence Hill, Nailsea & Backwell, Parson Street, Patchway, Severn Beach, Stapleton Road and Yate stations.

WECA will shortly start work with GWR to ensure that service planning and driver training are in place in time to start new services.

2020 to 2030

The southern extension of MetroWest to Weston super Mare, Taunton/Exeter and Worle/Weston super Mare Parkway will be developed and delivered, along with capacity improvements at Temple Meads. Work will be done to deliver step-free access at stations across the region.

Ashley Down station could be delivered early, before the Henbury line reopens, because its location on the Filton Bank means it could be served by existing services.

Electrification will be completed between Bristol Parkway, Bristol Temple Meads and Chippenham. The plan to decarbonise the train fleet will be developed during this period, along with plans to increase capacity for carrying bicycles. Severn Beach line trains may be battery powered.

Saltford and Ashton Gate stations could also come forward in this period.

2030 to 2045

Platform 1 at Temple Meads to be extended, and a new platform 0 to be commissioned. WECA plan for turn-up-and-go rail services (up to four trains per hour) on Cardiff to Portsmouth, Severn Beach to Westbury, Henbury and Portishead lines, together with freight improvements and the doubling of the Severn Beach line.

A proposed new chord from north to east of Hallen Marsh Junction would allow Severn Beach trains to access the Henbury line from the north. This would open up the possibility of a new Severn Beach to Yate service, serving the new Arena and Bristol Parkway.

The plan refers to doubling of the Severn Beach line between Montpelier and ‘Filton’ after 2030; this is a typo and should read ‘between Montpelier and Narroways Junction’.

What about other aspirations?

Disappointingly, Thornbury is not mentioned in this plan. Notably the local MP, Luke Hall, is Minister of State for Regional Growth and Local Government!

New stations for Lockleaze and Coalpit Heath are also absent.

Plans to improve services at Pilning and reinstate the footbridge there is mentioned as a longer term possibility, as is the reinstatement of services from Frome to Radstock.