MetroWest will transform rail travel in the region, generating over 2.7 million new rail journeys and giving 100,000 more people access to train services.
The West of England Combined Authority is working in partnership with Department for Transport, Bath and North East Somerset Council, Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council, South Gloucestershire Council and Network Rail to deliver new and more frequent rail services across the region.
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A significant number of the ecology enabling works are now coming to an end for this season, with the next phase now being planned for. The works have been very successful, and those completed so far include:
- Multiple ecological licence applications have been granted and works carried out under their respective licence conditions to protect Great Crested Newts, badgers, and the propagation of Bristol Rock Cress
- Tree planting on the A369 Portbury Hundred to provide an alternative bat corridor has been completed and a maintenance plan is in place to ensure they are fed and watered, which will continue over the coming months
- 1,200 metres of reptile fencing has been installed at multiple locations along the disused line and in the Ecology Park at Portishead
- Reptile trapping is now complete with ecologists visiting the 1,000+ reptile mats daily over the summer and safely moving them to the two translocation sites away from the line
- Reptile displacement also has to occur in certain locations which involves gradually reducing the length of the vegetation to encourage them away from the line to more suitable habitats
- Several bird and bat boxes have been installed to provide alternative nesting locations and roosts whilst work is underway
- The annual harvesting of whitebeam fruits from the Avon Gorge occurred in October and are being propagated at Bristol Botanicals, ready to plant during construction. This year the focus was on the rarest variety the sorbus avonensis. Over 100 whitebeams have already been planted in Leigh Woods with the help of Forestry England and are thriving.
Detailed design – otherwise known as Network Rail’s GRIP stage 5 – has progressed significantly. The project team continue to assist the contractors with this work stream, and we’d like to thank all those landowners and tenants who have allowed the teams access for noise surveys, ground investigations works, soil sampling, and other necessary works.
Now that spring has arrived, ecology enabling works are well underway. Following the winter vegetation clearance of the disused line, reptile trapping and translocation is taking place. The disused line has been covered in approximately 1,000 mats which attract reptiles so they can be carefully picked up and moved out of harm’s way ready for construction. To ensure they stay off the line, reptile fencing has been installed in a number of locations, most notably at the Ecology Park at Portishead where signs will also be placed informing visitors of the works. The tree planting along the A369 Portbury Hundred was completed which will provide an alternative flight corridor for bats, and bat and bird boxes will soon be installed to provide additional habitat.
Ground investigation works continue at multiple sites which is part of the GRIP 5 detailed design stage. These works can be obtrusive involving boreholes and digging but are undertaken with ecological supervision. The teams are also carrying out other works such as noise surveys and we thank residents who have agreed to have the equipment in their gardens for a short period.
We are also looking forward to seeing how the rare Whitebeam trees we have been growing since 2015 are coping in the wild now that they have been planted in the old Red Oak Plantation within Leigh Woods by our friends at Forestry England. Information signs informing visitors will also be installed there shortly.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced consent for the Portishead Branch Line on Monday 14th November 2022. Over the next 18 months the project will complete its detailed design, undertake ecology enabling works and, finally, submit its Full Business Case to funding decision makers (the Department for Transport, the Combined Authority and North Somerset Council).
Portishead rail line: MetroWest Phase 1
- Severn Beach: Hourly services on the Severn Beach Line to Bristol Temple Meads and half hourly services from Avonmouth to Bristol Temple Meads calling at a new station at Portway next to the Park and Ride.
- Bath & Westbury: Half hourly services from Bristol Temple Meads to Bath to Westbury.
- Portishead Line: Re-opening of the Portishead Line providing an hourly service between Portishead and Bristol Temple Meads with new stations at Pill and Portishead.
The Development Consent Order that granted planning consent on the 14th November 2022 also includes permission to start the compulsory purchase of land needed to build the rail line.
As of the week commencing 12th December 2022 we’re sending letters to residents in the local area with information to update them on this process and the next steps. Site notices about the Development Consent Order will also be placed at locations close to the future railway line.
In most cases, these letters are for information only. We are already in conversations with impacted landowners and are working towards bringing the Portishead rail line forward with them.
The complete set of Development Consent Order documents will be available to view at Portishead Library, Pill Resource Centre and Weston-super-Mare library until the end of January 2023. They are also available online at MetroWest Phase 1 document library.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced consent for the project on Monday 14th November 2022.
The Development Consent Order (DCO) includes planning consent, environmental consent and the compulsory acquisition of land and is required before nationally significant infrastructure projects can be built. The achievement of this major milestone means the project can now move forward towards the delivery phase.
Over the next 18 months the project will complete its detailed design, undertake ecology enabling works and, finally, submit its Full Business Case to funding decision makers (the Department for Transport, the Combined Authority and North Somerset Council).
Following the additional funding commitments from the Combined Authority, North Somerset Council, and Department for Transport – all of which closes the remaining funding gap – a response was sent to the DfT’s ‘minded to’ letter.
This included an updated Funding Statement which sets out in detail the revised estimated cost of the scheme, and details confirming that the funding needed for delivery has been secured.
The updated Funding Statement also addresses all the points set out in the letter of 19th April 2022.
The expectation is that the DCO decision can now be made no later than 14th November 2022.
The Department for Transport have committed an additional £15.5m to deliver the scheme. This is in addition to £10m committed by North Somerset Council, and another £10m committed by the West of England Combined Authority, which closes the remaining funding gap. The gap was the result of approval of the scheme’s Development Consent Order (DCO) costing more than anticipated and unprecedented global increases to the cost of energy, labour and construction materials. For further information see North Somerset Council’s press release about the additional funding and the Combined Authority’s press release about the additional funding.
North Somerset Council has been working closely with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the Department for Transport (DfT) for additional funding to progress the scheme. Projected capital costs of the scheme have risen to £152m following delays to approval of the scheme’s DCO and unprecedented global increases to the cost of energy, labour and construction materials. Both the council and WECA are seeking to commit an additional £10m to the project to bridge the funding shortfall and deliver the scheme, and are asking the DfT to close the remaining £15.5m funding gap.
A decision on the DCO was due on the 19th April 2022.
The Secretary of State announced a further delay to consent for construction of MetroWest Phase 1. For further information, please refer to the written statement laid out in Parliament.
As of January 14th 2022, the MetroWest Phase 1 project is still awaiting a decision on the Development Consent Order (DCO) by the Department for Transport (DfT).
The DCO application was submitted in November 2019. The process included an examination in public which took six months and ended in April 2021. The decision had been expected in October 2021 but it was confirmed then that the Secretary of State would require up to a further 6 months to make the decision.
The project team are continuing to press for a decision to be made as soon as possible.
On October 20th 2021, a Written Ministerial Statement was presented in the House of Commons stating that the deadline for the DCO decision is to be extended to 19 April 2022 (an extension of 6 months) to allow further consideration of environmental matters.
Parts of the historic Portishead railway line are to be recycled and reused as part of an exciting project with the Avon Valley Railway.
The historic railway assets, some of which date back to the 1920s, are not needed by the MetroWest Phase 1 project which is set to deliver a new £116m railway line between Portishead and Bristol.
At North Somerset Council’s meeting on the 19th July, councillors agreed that parts of the disused Portishead line could be used to assist the Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust.
The line allows visitors to experience a bygone age of steam and heritage trains along the old Midland Railway branch line which ran between Mangotsfield and Bath. The current three-mile heritage railway line runs between Oldland and Avon Riverside and needs upgrading and improving in some areas.
The DCO Examination period began on Tuesday 6th October 2020 and lasted 6 months, closing on 19th April 2021.
It began with two preliminary hearings followed by a number of open floor and issue specific hearings. Many different parties were engaged in the Examination process raising their issues and concerns, which the Examiners then addressed to the project team. The process resulted in a significant number of written questions to the project team as well as stakeholders, partners and other bodies and individuals. A series of formal deadlines were set, and it proved to be a very intense period for the project.
Following the Examination’s closure, there is a period of three months for the Examining Authority to write its report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, the deadline for this being the 19th July 2021. The Secretary of State will then have three months in which to make a decision.
Network Rail are leading on the preparations to appoint the contractors who will carry out the vast amount of works required. The tendering process is multi-staged and begins with the pre-qualification questionnaire stage beginning in May/June 2021. This will be followed by the Invitation To Tender stage later on in the year.
Henbury rail line: MetroWest Phase 2
- Henbury Line: Re-opening of the Henbury Line with new stations at Henbury, North Filton and Ashley Down, providing an hourly service from Bristol Temple Meads to Filton Abbey Wood and onto North Filton and Henbury.
- Yate & Gloucester Line: Half hourly services between Bristol Temple Meads and to Gloucester via Yate with a new station at Charfield.
North Filton and Henbury train stations
Ashley Down Station
New Stations: Portway Park & Ride
Portway Park & Ride rail station
The MetroWest Phase 1 and Phase 2 proposals include new or reopened rail stations at Portishead, Pill, Henbury, North Filton and Ashley Down.
In addition to these stations, a separate new stations package is looking at the potential for future new stations in other locations.
Proposals for a new station at Saltford on the line between Bristol and Bath are being pursued by Bath & North East Somerset Council. Bristol City Council has commissioned a study to investigate the likely costs, benefits and operational feasibility of a new station at Ashton Gate.
Bristol City Council commissioned a study to investigate the likely costs, benefits and operational feasibility of a new station near Ashton Gate stadium.
The former Ashton Gate station was served by the Bristol to Portishead rail line, which closed to passengers in 1964.
The Greater Bristol councils are developing the £60million MetroWest rail project, Phase 1 of which includes the reopening of the Portishead rail line to passenger services.
Our studies have shown that it is not feasible to build a new Ashton Gate station as part of Phase 1. A new station at Ashton Gate remains within the MetroWest new stations package.
The West of England Joint Transport Board has stated that implementing MetroWest Phase 1 will not rule out options for an Ashton Gate station. Network Rail has also confirmed that the scheme will be future-proofed to enable a new station to be developed when the funding and business case allow.
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