Portishead railway reopening impression

UK: The Department for Transport has granted planning consent for reinstatement of the railway between Portishead and Pill. This is the first passenger reopening to be approved using a Development Consent Order, which includes planning and environmental consent and compulsory land acquisition.

The reintroduction of passenger services between Portishead and Bristol forms Phase 1b of the MetroWest programme to enhance rail services in the region.

The Portishead Branch Line (MetroWest Phase 1) Order 2022 coming into force on December 5 follows more than three years of work by North Somerset Council with partners including Womble Bond Dickinson, Ardent, Jacobs and Network Rail. The application was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in November 2019.

Approval comes after additional funding was agreed by the council (£10m), West of England Combined Authority (£10m) and DfT (£15·5m) to cover a funding gap resulting from the DCO costing more than anticipated and global increases to the cost of energy, labour and construction materials; the projected capital cost of the scheme is now £152m.

Detailed design is to get underway in winter 2022-23, with full business case approval by DfT expected in summer 2024. Construction would commence shortly afterwards, for services to begin in autumn 2026.

Council leader and executive member for major projects Steve Bridger said the line would offer a journey time of 23 min from Portishead to Bristol, providing a reliable alternative to the congested A369 which serves the town via Junction 19 on the M5 motorway.

‘The local population has quadrupled since the original Portishead rail line closed almost 60 years ago’, he said on November 15. ‘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.’