Unanimous approval for Portishead to Bristol railway line to open 60 years after it closed

The long-awaited plans to re-open the Portishead Line could soon be a reality
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Construction work could start in August to bring the railway back to Portishead, after plans were given unanimous backing by North Somerset Council.

The long-awaited plans to re-open the Portishead Line could soon be a reality, 60 years after the town’s station closed to passengers.

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On Tuesday January 9, North Somerset Council voted unanimously to give council leader Mike Bell the authority to submit the full business case for the long-awaited scheme to the Department for Transport, expected to happen in February.

If the Department for Transport approves the plans in May as the council hope, they will instruct Network Rail to deliver the project and spades could be in the ground in August. The matter will come back before North Somerset Council in the summer to agree to release the necessary funding.

Mr Bell told the council meeting: “By connecting 50,000 residents back into the rail network, the Portishead to Bristol line stands to be transformative for both North Somerset and the region. Not only will it provide better connections for Portishead and Pill, but it will offer green alternatives to getting around, cutting road traffic with expected train journeys of around 20–25 minutes.”

The project’s price tag of £152m has been funded by the West of England Combined Authority, Department for Transport, and North Somerset Council - but it will be down to the Department for Transport to cover any unexpected extra costs. Mr Bell said: “We have played our part with local resources, and we now expect the Department of Transport to take responsibility for any capital delivery risk or cost pressures going forward.”

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Portishead East councillor Roger Whitfield added: “The people of Portishead and Pill have been crying out for this railway link for as long as I can remember - almost since it was closed in the 1960s.

“I am sure everyone here knows how much residential development has taken place in Portishead over the last 25 years, with little or no associated improvements in the road networks. So I hope you can all understand that the people of Portishead feel that they are owned this significant public transport upgrade.”

But Portishead South councillor Peter Burden warned: “Portishead Railway Station reopening has been five years in the future from every regional assembly meeting I attended in the early 2000s. Now, hopefully we are there but - I’m sorry - like a lot of other people in Portishead we have our fingers crossed and everything else we possibly can and wish Mike Bell and the rest all the success in getting us over the line - but pardon us for being cynical.”

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