Portishead to Bristol railway line: Timeline set for reopening after planning approval

Ministers have given the long-awaited thumbs up to the project
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A major obsticle has been passed in the long-awaited plan to open a railway line between Bristol to Portishead after Government ministers granted the scheme planning permission. But the region’s metro mayor has warned of ‘more bumps in the road’ ahead of completion.

The Department for Transport has given planning and environmental consent for the £152m project which will see the reopening of the branch line that closed to passengers in 1964. It followed a financial committment to the scheme from The West of England Combined Authority (Weca) in August that provided the final piece of funding required.

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As well as the opening of the 15km-long disused line, a car and bus interchange will be created in Portishead and a new station in Pill. There are also future plans for a station at Ashton Gate. The line will provide hourly journeys from Portishead to Bristol taking 23 minutes, and will ease the pressure on the A369/M5 junction.

With work to start on detailed designs this winter and a full business case still needing approval from ministers, actual construction of the track will not start until the summer of 2024, with the earliest opening in 2026. Today Metro Mayor Dan Norris warned: “This is a project long in the making and undoubted there will be more bumps in the road.”

But he added: This important thumbs up keeps us firmly on the right track, and means the hard work of physically bringing this rail line back to life can begin. This is a really important project that will see communities in south Bristol and across our city reconnected to Portishead and help in our vital quest for net-zero.

“The last time you could catch a train along this line was before a man walked on the moon and the Beatles were taking America by storm. So I’m pleased to have passed another important milestone.”

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Councillor Steve Bridger, Leader of North Somerset Council and Executive Member for Major Projects, welcomed the announcement. He said: “The local population has quadrupled since the original Portishead rail line closed almost 60 years ago. In reopening this route and stations at Portishead and Pill, we can better connect our communities and businesses to the opportunities offered by continued growth across our region, both now and in the future.”

And the Portishead Railway Group said the move was a cause for great celebration, and now called for urgent action to push forward with work to ensure opening at the earliest date possible.

Preparation work can now begin on the £152m Portishead to Bristol line after it was signed off by the Secretary of State for Transport.Preparation work can now begin on the £152m Portishead to Bristol line after it was signed off by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Preparation work can now begin on the £152m Portishead to Bristol line after it was signed off by the Secretary of State for Transport.

Chairman Alan Matthews said: “The Portishead line has always had a very strong business case and we are pleased that this was recognised by the Secretary of State. We now look forward to seeing the business case and full design so that the contracts can finally be put in place for construction of the line to start.”

The reopening of the line is part of the MetroWest project which also includes a half-hourly service between Severn Beach and Westbury which has already been delivered. A half-hourly service is next planned between Wesbury and Bristol.

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