A cash hole in the project to reopen the Bristol to Portishead railway line has been plugged today (Friday 29 July, 2022).
Metro Mayor Dan Norris called an emergency meeting of the West of England Combined Authority he leads after he and Cllr Steve Bridger, Leader of North Somerset Council, secured a promise of £15.5m of government cash.
In the emergency meeting the Metro Mayor, and councillors Tim Ball (Bath & North East Somerset Council), Don Alexander (Bristol City Council) and Steve Reade (South Gloucestershire Council) agreed to also invest £10m of the West of England Combined Authority’s resources. This means all the remaining funding needed to build the line is now in place, including £10m from North Somerset Council.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “This should be the final piece of the funding jigsaw. This cash will allow us to conclude the final design work and then start the building and construction work in earnest. Re-opening the important Portishead to Bristol line to passengers has been a very long time coming. The line closed when I was four years old. It is now vital we get on with it at pace.”
However Mayor Norris warned that, until the Development Consent Order is approved (where the relevant Secretary of State gives national permission and consent after a recommendation from the national planning inspectorate), there were still possible minefields ahead. The Secretary of State has set a new deadline of 19 February 2023 for the decision on the application.
The Mayor said: “We need that decision as soon as possible. Inflation is going through the roof and every day’s delay adds more cost. I will be chasing the Secretary of State to accelerate this process as much as possible.”
“This is a really important project. It will provide fast links for people in South Bristol and across the city to Portishead and back. It is a vital part of helping us reach our very ambitious net zero target of 2030. It will also impact positively on the whole of the West of England and North Somerset economy to create jobs and opportunity while cutting car use.”
At the meeting, Cllr Bridger thanked the Mayor for calling the meeting and called this a “big moment in the project.”
Cllr Huw James from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, called this “one of the finest hours of the West of England Combined Authority.”
Metro Mayor Dan Norris ended the meeting held at Ashton Gate by saying: “We’ve brought the Portishead to Bristol funding home. Now we just need the England Lionesses to bring football home for a perfect weekend!”