The second phase of the MetroWest programme is well underway as work to construct a new two-platform station at Ashley Down ramps up a gear. This is the second of the first two new rail stations that will be opened in Bristol for almost a century.
On 6 June, along with Cabinet member colleagues, Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport, approved a report that set out the latest developments in phase 2 of the MetroWest programme, which includes new railway stations on the Henbury Line at Ashley Down, North Filton, and Henbury. The Henbury line is an existing freight line that will reopen to passenger trains between Bristol Temple Meads and Henbury. The project also includes increasing the frequency of trains between Bristol and Gloucester, from one an hour to a half hourly service.
During June’s Cabinet meeting as part of the report, Cabinet heard that this major infrastructure programme will see overall costs rise from £54.1 million to £72.6 million. This is mainly because of the rise in inflation and the cost of materials. It is also because design changes are needed to all three stations, including widening Ashley Down station’s platforms, redesigning access to Henbury station car park, and redesigning both footbridges at Ashley Down and North Filton stations as part of the planning process. There is also a need for more biodiversity offsetting at Henbury station. This is where conservation activities give biodiversity benefits to make up for nature losses due to a new development.
These extra costs will be met by the project partners, including Bristol City Council, South Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council and North Somerset Council, with funding from the West of England Combined Authority. The amount of money set aside from the Transforming Cities Fund will also go from £11 million to £19.9 million.
Bristol City Council had previously agreed to fund the programme with £7.3 million investment from the Bristol Economic Development Fund, provided by the Combined Authority. However, due to the increase in costs, the council will raise this by almost £1.9 million – investing a total of just over £9.1 million into MetroWest phase 2.
The Cabinet report also set out how Ashley Down station’s platforms need to be widened by around half a metre to make sure they are fully accessible to all. As a result, a roughly 115 metre section of the Concorde Way walking and cycling route, which runs alongside the new station from Station Road towards St Werburghs, will need to be reduced in width by up to 90cm. A range of measures will help reduce potential conflict along the narrower section of the path, which will be delivered by the council as part of the station access improvements works in 2023 and 2024. Design work is underway, with proposals expected to include high friction surfacing, along with new markings and signage.
With the ambition to improve Concorde Way in the future, the council will work with the West of England Combined Authority on a feasibility study on possible long term improvements to Concorde Way between Muller Road and Mina Road, passing the station and the allotments.
The Ashley Down station project partnership includes the West of England Combined Authority working with Bristol City Council, Network Rail and Great Western Railway. Work is being carried out by accredited contractors on behalf of Network Rail and Bristol City Council.