The ‘forgotten’ suburb of Bristol where a new railway station could still be on track
The St Annes Park station closed in 1970 but a campaign has submitted a bid to reopen it
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Regular trains pass through St Annes every day, but they haven’t stopped at this ‘forgotten’ area of Bristol for 53 years.
St Annes Park station opened in 1898 and closed in 1970 and since then this part of south east Bristol has been something of a desert when it comes to public transport. But there is still hope that a new train station could be built at St Annes, although progress seems to be at an amber light at present.
I’m standing on the bridge where Brislington meets St Annes with Labour councillor Tim Rippington, who represents Brislington East. Since being elected in January 2020, Tim has led the campaign to reopen the station in St Annes, between Bristol Temple Meads and Keynsham on the London line that also stops at Bath.
A bid was put into the Department for Transport’s £500-million Restoring Your Railway fund in 2020. The scheme has already seen three stations reopen in Devon and Somerset.
Working with Bristol City Council and WECA, as well as Network Rail, Tim prepared a detail report into how and why a station should reopen in St Annes but 18 months on and the council is still waiting on a response from the government about whether the cash will be made available to build the station.
Despite the delay, Tim remains positive, if frustrated, at the lack of progress and he thinks it’s all down to politics. “It was Boris Johnson’s baby and the new people in charge may not have the same focus that he did on big schemes like new railway stations.
“What I’m wondering is whether they are holding stuff back so they can release as much positive news as possible in the election year so maybe there’s a bit of hope there. But then we don’t have any Tory MPs in this area and the likelihood is that they’ll announce things in ‘red wall’ areas where they want to win seats.
“If a Labour government came into power, nobody knows what will happen because they’ll probably get another one of those notes saying there’s no money left. But it would be much better from our point of view to be working with a Labour government to deliver these types of things because Labour has a far more positive mindset about restoring infrastructure.”
The Strategic Outline Business Case drawn up by Tim looked at whether there’s capacity on the line to stop the trains and whether it’s feasible to timetable extra trains. The report also looked at an alternative location for the station in sidings close to Langton Street Bridge.
Tim says: “One of the things that might restrict putting a station where it used to be is capacity on the line because there are so many London trains. The sidings beneath Langton Street Bridge might work if they put a passing loop at the station so fast trains can still go through. That area is a large space which is currently used to service trains and hold goods trains when London trains come through.”
The bid also looked at the demand for a station in St Annes, but as Tim points out, it’s large area that’s also badly served when it comes to public transport.
Tim adds: “We have a ward of 11,000 people in Brislington East and then there’s another 11,000 in Brislington West so although it’s quite a stretched ward, it’s similar in size to areas using Bedminster or Parson Street stations, or Ashley Down where there is a station reopening.
“In St Annes, you’re a 25-minute walk from the buses on Bath Road and there’s just the one bus in St Annes - the 36 - which no longer goes to the other side of Brislington. People have been talking about reopening this train station for a long time because of that reason because the transport links here are so poor.”