North Somerset Council Put Forward Plans To Re-Open Portishead Line

A nationally significant scheme to re-open the Portishead to Bristol railway line is to be submitted to the Government for formal approval. 

On Tuesday 25 June, North Somerset Full Council agreed to submit a Development Consent Order (DCO) application to the Planning Inspectorate for the £116m MetroWest Phase 1 scheme. The DCO application seeks powers to build and operate the disused section of railway from Portishead to Pill, gain environmental consent to undertake works to the existing freight railway through the Avon Gorge and obtain powers for the compulsory acquisition of land. 

Lib Dem spokesperson for the Portishead Railway, Cllr Huw James said “I am delighted with North Somerset Council’s decision to move forward the reopening of the Portishead Line. This project will ease congestion, opening new opportunities and a brighter greener future for Portishead, Pill, and the Gordano Valley! 

Let’s get on with it, get Portishead Back on Track, and encourage further green investment projects in North Somerset.”

Liberal Democrat West of England spokesperson, Stephen Williams, added: “Reopening the rail line from Portishead to Bristol should be a top priority for the West of England. Long overdue.”

[Caption: Cllr James sitting on the disused railway sleepers on the site of the proposed new Portishead Station]

Nearly three-quarters of Portishead’s residents currently commute to work via car. This means that Portishead is becoming more and more congested, facing daily gridlock - no wonder our local MP, Dr Liam Fox once called it "the biggest cul-de-sac in Britain". The railway is vital for cutting congestion and pollution, improving the local economy, and making it easier for our residents to get into Bristol and around the country by train. The scheme is believed to create 181,000 fewer car trips in the opening year, increasing to 278,000 fewer car trips a year by 2036.

Relaunching train services from Portishead with new stations at Portishead and Pill is a key part of the first phase of the MetroWest programme of transport improvements across the region being led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and North Somerset Council. This project saw the strength of collaboration between local authorities in the West of England, and saw North Somerset Council rise to the challenge of delivering a comprehensive and complex local infrastructure plan.

Historically, the South West has had the least spending per any region in the UK on Transport, our transport projects have had to add more value than in anywhere else in the United Kingdom to be approved. The Portishead Line is predicted to provide £3 of quantified benefits for every £1 invested to deliver the scheme, putting the scheme in the high value for money category.

Other predicted benefits of the scheme include:

  • 958,980 passenger trips by rail in the opening year increasing to 1,295,103 passenger trips by 2036
  • bringing more than 50,000 people within the immediate catchment of the two new stations at Portishead and Pill
  • providing better access to employment and educational opportunities
  • upgrading the existing train service at 16 stations across three rail corridors, directly benefiting 180,000 people within a 1km catchment
  • creating 514 new direct permanent jobs and temporary jobs during construction
  • enhancing the regional economy by £264m in the first ten years

Once the application is registered by the Planning Inspectorate, the Secretary of State for Transport is expected to make a decision within 18 months.

Subject to final business case approval, construction work is expected to start on the Portishead to Bristol line in December 2021 and take around two years to complete.

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