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Railfuture Severnside Press Releases and Letters


22 February 2011

Letter to Gloucester Citizen,

"In his article on transport funding (Citizen, 21 February), Ian Manning of Stagecoach says that rail companies do not pay fuel duty. In fact train operators pay duty on diesel fuel at a rate of about 8.3 pence per litre. Incidentally, this had been increased from about 3.4p / litre by Gordon Brown. It is true that bus operators pay fuel duty but they receive a substantial rebate of this via the Bus Service Operatorsí Grant. Network Rail pays Industrial Buildings Tax, amounting to £512m in 2009, on its bridges, tunnels and other major infrastructure.

A purely bus based public transport system has the disadvantage that buses generally have to share road space with private vehicles. This and the frequent stopping means that journeys involving several routes can be unattractively slow. Where rail services are available, even relatively local trips in Gloucestershire are likely to be faster if made partly by train. So why not prioritise funding for local transport projects on schemes which give better integration between trains and buses ? There is a crying need for a more convenient interchange at Gloucester between railway station, bus station and city bus stops. A footbridge across Bruton Way, or bus stops at the rail station, would be preferable to the present slow acting pedestrian lights. A smart ticketing system on the lines of Londonís Oyster Card could encourage greater use of both bus and rail.

Rather than dismiss light rail schemes, we should recognise their ability to reduce the UKís expensive dependence on imported oil, in the same way as electrification of the main line rail network."

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary,

Railfuture Severnside.


7 January 2011.

Director of Planning,

Sedgemoor District Council

Bridgwater House

King Square

BRIDGWATER

TA6 3AR.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Burnham-on-Sea and Highbridge Urban Extension- proposed revision to Core Strategy

Railfuture Severnside wishes to express its support for the choice of the Brue Farm site for the urban extension of Burnham and Highbridge. We believe that a development of this size will generate more passengers at Highbridge & Burnham railway station and strengthen the case for improved train services and facilities at the station. Siting new housing near to railway stations is a wise policy because it reduces the need for car commuting and the UKís dependence on imported oil.

We consider that convenient access from the proposed development to the station for both motorists and pedestrians is essential. The present amount of car parking at the station would not appear sufficient to cater for a significant number of additional users. Serious consideration should be given to providing a new car park on the former goods yard site, beyond the road bridge north of the station.

I understand that Burnham and Highbridge have a combined population of around 20,000, which could increase by more than 1,000 if the Brue Farm development goes ahead. This suggests a need not only for more parking at the station but also for restaffing it and providing better passenger shelter. At present there is believed to be a significant amount of ticketless travel from Highbridge into Bridgwater, Taunton and Weston, which must be costing First Great Western a considerable amount of revenue.

The urban extension may provide the impetus for FGW to consider whether the existing Cardiff- Bristol- Taunton stopping train service, calling at all or most stations, is really appropriate for the growing populations of Highbridge and Bridgwater. We note that Somerset County Councilís Future Transport Policy envisages the Bridgwater- Taunton- Wellington corridor as a major growth area over the next 15 years. In our view it would make sense for the main service at these two stations to be semi-fast, with no stops between Bristol Temple Meads and Weston. The intermediate stations in North Somerset could then be served mainly by a Greater Bristol Metro service (Yate- Weston).

Yours sincerely,

 

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside


23 November 2010

Local Transport Plan 3 Consultation

Wiltshire County Council

Strategic Planning Team

County Hall

TROWBRIDGE

BA14 8JN.

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

Railfuture Severnside welcomes the tone of the comments in the LTP3 concerning railways and particularly the policies in favour of enhanced services on the Swindon- Westbury and Bristol- Weymouth lines. The stated intentions regarding railway development are very good but we believe that a greater commitment is needed to fund capital projects such as new stations if they are to materialise.

Fuel prices and peak oil

It is good to see in the Introduction a recognition that fuel prices may increase considerably if peak oil becomes a reality. Railfuture believes that reducing the UKís dependence on imported oil should be at the heart of national and local transport policy. At the time of writing an announcement is awaited from the Secretary of State for Transport regarding Great Western main line electrification. We strongly support electrification not only because it would modernise the rail system and help secure UK energy supplies but also because of the probable cascade of relatively modern diesel units currently working in the London area to replace inferior 1980s stock in the West of England.

We understand that Regional Spatial Strategies are being scrapped by Central Government and are concerned this may result in the creation of low density, car-orientated settlements, away from public transport routes. This would be exactly the wrong approach to a future with more limited oil reserves. We believe it would be wiser to concentrate new housing where it can be served efficiently by public transport.

Appendix B, item 2. Bus links to rail stations

We welcome the Councilís statement in favour of through ticketing schemes and for bus connections at rail stations to be treated as part of the countyís strategic network of bus services. We would like to see rail journeys included in any Smart Ticketing scheme which Wiltshire may wish to develop in conjunction with the Department for Transport.

Appendix B, item 34 Swindon- Westbury and Bristol- Weymouth services

We applaud the Councilís far sighted purchase of land adjacent to Melksham station so that facilities and bus / rail interchange can be upgraded when an improved train service is provided. There is certainly the population along the Swindon- Chippenham- Westbury- Warminster corridor to sustain a far more frequent service than is currently provided. An hourly service via Melksham was considered feasible by Network Railís recent Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy and it would strengthen the case for reopening Wootton Bassett station.

We share the Councilís concern about overcrowding on the Bristol- Weymouth line during Bank Holidays and summer weekends. It does appear that additional rolling stock for this and the important Cardiff- Portsmouth route will depend on an electrification cascade. Should GW electrification not proceed, we hope the Council will press DfT to deploy additional trains on the routes served by First Great Western in Wiltshire.

New railway stations

The statement (in Appendix B) that the prospect of opening or reopening stations in Wiltshire depends very much on rail industry funding is a little misleading. Nearly all of the stations opened in the past 30 years have been funded substantially by local authorities, aided in some cases by major local businesses. * Unlike major road schemes, rail projects are not based on the questionable assumption of abundant petrol. We believe that a contribution from the County to the cost of new stations in Wiltshire would be money well spent. Recent station openings elsewhere have been well supported, often far exceeding forecast demand. Access to the rail network will enable people to reach jobs and major centres of business far more quickly than by bus, thus helping to revive the economy.

Railfuture believes the following sites on existing railways should be safeguarded for reopening during the period of the LTP3:

Corsham, Devizes Parkway (at either the old Lavington station site or at Lydeway on the A342), Hullavington (to serve Malmesbury), Wootton Bassett and Wylye (near to the A36 / A303 junction)

* see Britainís Growing Railway, An A-Z Guide, Railfuture, 2010.

Freight

We support the concept of a rail / road freight interchange at Westbury and the suggestion (Appendix A, item 72) that the potential of the sidings at Westbury cement works be examined. Whilst Westbury may be the only suitable location for a major depot, other sidings at Thingley and Woodborough may have potential for more local or intermittent freight transfer.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray,

Hon. Secretary,

Railfuture Severnside.


Local Transport Plan 3 Consultation

Gloucestershire County Council
Shire Hall
GLOUCESTER

12 October 2010.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Railfuture Severnside welcomes the support for enhancing the rail network contained in the Draft LTP3 but considers that the benefits of rail have been understated and that the question of rail / bus interchange has not been adequately addressed.

Freight Quality Partnerships

Despite the Councilís interest in rail freight, as shown on page 14 of the Summary Guide, the main report (page 25) appears to play down the potential for rail freight terminals in the county. The statement (para 3.21) that there is currently only road access to Sharpness port is misleading. It would be more accurate to say that ships using the port are at present served only by road. Although the Sharpness branch line is out of use, it would appear to be serviceable and has sidings around the dock extending for about a mile beyond the Network Rail / British Waterways boundary. We were advised in 2006 by Mr. Mike Obst that, if a rail / road / sea freight terminal at Sharpness became viable, it could be established fairly quickly. There is also a proposal by the Sharpness & Berkeley Railway Company to run freight and passenger services over the line.

Para. 3.22 says that the MoD rail freight terminal at Ashchurch is not available for general use. Yet it did receive trains of bottled water from Scotland during the Gloucestershire floods of 2007 and there are sidings south of the station on Network Rail property which were restored to use as a result of the County Councilís intervention some time before that. The County has been too modest about its excellent work in restoring rail freight capacity which was soon to prove valuable in relieving a major emergency.

In view of the need to reduce dependence on road transport and its high consumption of imported fuel, we believe the Council should safeguard further sites adjacent to railways for the creation of freight terminals in the longer term, and also consider rail access to all new major industrial developments.

Section 8 Good Access to Services

Para. 8.4 If it has not done so already, the County Councilís travel website could be used to advise travellers of what services are running during extreme weather. On 6 February 2009 heavy snowfall caused cancellation of all bus services in and between Cheltenham and Gloucester for most of the day but trains serving both towns ran as booked. In such situations the availability or otherwise of services on each of the four rail lines in the county ought to be posted on the travel website and advised to local radio stations.

Railfuture agrees that Ashchurch and Lydney stations need more trains calling. A major deficiency of the present service at Ashchurch is the lack of a morning train suitable for people working normal office hours in Cheltenham and Gloucester. If First Great Western does not have the resources to run an additional train, the 06.00 Nottingham- Cardiff should call at Ashchurch. We believe that XC has claimed that the additional stop would affect its turnround at Cardiff but are not convinced this is insoluble. Other XC services on this route have only slightly longer turnround times.

The "high quality bus service" between Gloucester and Cheltenham, although frequent, can involve journeys of exasperating slowness for through passengers. Daytime schedules on Service 94 have been eased to 40-45 minutes, no doubt to reflect the realities of road congestion. It is often quicker to travel between the two central areas by using the train, even with a walk of 1 Ĺ miles at the Cheltenham end. Many journeys within the Central Severn Vale area (CSV) are likely to be faster with a rail element. For this reason the proposed Smart Ticketing scheme needs to cover rail as well as bus travel.

The long term solution to urban traffic in the CSV is Light Rail. The obvious benefits will be faster journeys and reduction of dependence on imported fuel but experience elsewhere suggests that motorists perceive light (or heavy) rail as a higher status mode of travel than buses. We welcome the intention (para. 8.20) to work with the University of Gloucestershire on a bid for EU Inter Regional funding for research into low cost light rail technology. As for the comment (para. 8.18) that dispersed development patterns are less favourable to fixed track systems, we should not forget that low density, car orientated housing developments such as Quedgeley were built on a tacit assumption that petrol supplies would remain abundant. Railfuture believes that a move away from oil based transport should be at the core of transport policy. This may well require new development to be at a higher density but this would have the advantage of protecting green belt and conserving land for agriculture.

Transport Hubs

Railfuture would like to see railway stations feature in some of the proposed Transport Hubs. Physical interchange between trains and buses needs much improvement, notably at Gloucester where many bus routes pass the station along Bruton Way without stopping. This busy dual carriageway creates a barrier between the rail station, the bus station and the city bus stops in Clarence Street. The slow acting pedestrian lights at the Station Hotel seem designed to ensure that passengers alighting from one mode of public transport will miss the other. Access from the railway station to an alternative bus stop outside ASDA is equally hindered by the junction of Bruton Way with Metz Way, where the lights are also very slow to change in the pedestriansí favour. A more passenger friendly interchange could be created by providing bus stops along Bruton Way in front of the station and rephasing the traffic lights so that pedestrians have no more than one minute to wait after pressing the button. A more permanent solution would be a footbridge linking the rail and bus stations, perhaps when the latter is rebuilt.

Stroud station, which is a few minutesí walk from the bus stops in Merrywalk, could also become part of a transport hub by means of clearer signage to and from the bus stops.

The apparent lack of interest from Network Rail in building additional stations in Gloucestershire (para. 8.15) is unduly pessimistic in view of the success of recent station openings in the UK, most of which have greatly exceeded forecast levels of usage.* Where new housing can support new stations, we hope the Council will enter into Section 106 agreements requiring developers to help fund them. The Councilís proposal for a station at Hunts Grove is most welcome as it would be very close to the recent Kingsway development and accessible from much of Quedgeley.

Railfuture believes the following sites for potential new stations need to be safeguarded:

Stonehouse Bristol Road, to provide much easier access from the Stonehouse and Stroud area to Bristol.

Newnham, to serve Cinderford and areas of the Forest not so easily reached from Lydney station.

Brimscombe, adjacent to several bus routes and well placed for Bussage, Chalford, Eastcombe and Minchinhampton.

Churchdown, which could also serve Gloucestershire Airport.

* see for instance Britainís Growing Railway, An A-Z Guide, Railfuture, 2010.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray,
Hon. Secretary,
Railfuture Severnside.

West of England Partnership Joint Local Transport Plan3 Consultation

response sent by email, 1 October 2010.

Railfuture Severnside would like to make the following comments, most of which relate to Chapter 6.

6.1.8 Peak Oil

Railfuture believes that a move away from dependence on imported fuel should be at the core of transport policy. It is therefore encouraging to see an awareness that oil reserves are likely to be as plentiful in the not too distant future. We would certainly agree that this requires a shift in favour of more sustainable transport, including rail electrification. Equally we would question the need for the South Bristol Link Road, which in common with other major road building projects, appears to be based on the assumption of abundant petrol.

Public Transport, Cycling and Walking

6.1.21- 6.1.24 Support for rail electrification and enhancements proposed in the Great Western RUS is most welcome. Regarding rail access to airports, a link from Nailsea station or from a reopened Flax Bourton station would be more convenient for passengers travelling to Bristol Airport from the west.

6.1.25 The West of England already has a high speed rail connection with London, albeit with trains nearly 35 years old ! The main line from Bristol Parkway to Paddington is one of the fastest and best aligned in the UK. The real problem with main lines in the South West is capacity, which also inhibits development of local train services. Four tracking of some sections, eg Swindon- Wootton Bassett, would help, as would additional track at Bath Spa. Building a new High Speed route might clean out funds which would be better spent on electrifying and resignalling the existing network. Likewise the Barnt Green- Westerleigh route needs improvements to capacity, eg upgrading the loops at Charfield and Haresfield for passenger trains, rather than spending millions just to save five minutes on a journey from Birmingham to Bristol.

6.1.26 For many urban journeys it is quicker and less aggravating to take the train with a walk at one or both ends of the journey than to sit in a car or bus on congested roads.

6.2.13 An enhanced local rail network would connect with a system which enjoys more frequent services than when the lines and stations proposed for reopening (eg Portishead) last carried passengers. Bristol now has half hourly trains to London and Birmingham for most of the day. Cardiff- Bristol- Portsmouth is now an hourly service, which was not the case in 1964. The usefulness of reopened lines will be increased by the improved frequencies on all existing rail routes from Bristol. This can only increase the financial viability of new and reopened routes and stations.

6.2.14 The proposals in the GW RUS proposals for quadrupling Temple Meads-Parson Street and Dr. Dayís Junction- Filton Abbey Wood are strongly supported by Railfuture. These schemes would allow efficient segregation of local and long distance trains. We would recommend resignalling the up relief line from Parson Street to Temple Meads for two-way running so that Portishead trains could keep clear of the main lines in both directions.

Besides the obvious benefits for long distance passengers, GW electrification would make it feasible to run some electrified stopping services on the main line, eg Bristol- Chippenham / Swindon, serving reopened stations at Saltford and Corsham. Additionally relatively modern diesel units currently working in the Paddington and Reading areas could be redeployed on non electrified routes in the Bristol area.

6.2.29 Parking Charges

In order not to discourage rail use, car parking should remain free of charge smaller stations. We are pleased that FGW has withdrawn its plan to charge for parking at Patchway. Experience at Tilehurst, a suburban station in Reading, suggests that high parking charges at local stations only encourages rail passengers to park in residential streets.

6.2.45 Freight

We welcome the intention to work with Network Rail and the freight industry to promote movement of freight by rail rather than road. For this to be achieved, more freight terminals are needed and recently disused ones such as Bristol East Depot and Bath Westmoreland Yard need to be safeguarded. The recent reopening of Bristol Freightliner Depot after 17 yearsí disuse is most welcome but the feasibility of rail access needs to be considered in all new industrial developments.

6.3.1 Vision to 2026

Electrification of most or all of the local network would help freight as well as passengers, eg the Henbury loop is the main rail route to Avonmouth docks. There are also the goals of improving air quality and helping to secure UK energy supplies.

Viewed in the context of energy supplies, at least part of the Rapid Transit Network ought to be rail based. The dismantled railways from Bristol via Mangotsfield to Westerleigh and towards Bath ought to be safeguarded for possible reinstatement. They were closed when there were few concerns about pollution or oil reserves but they ran through heavily populated areas now earmarked for developments such as Emersonís Green Science Park. The cycleway could either be accommodated alongside a reopened railway, as with the Avon Valley Railway heritage line or diverted, as with the Airdrie- Bathgate line being reopened in Scotland.

Tram trains may be a solution for linking the existing and projected heavy rail system with places off the network, provided there is no downgrading of existing line infrastructure which prevented their use for freight or diverted passenger trains. Clevedon might be a suitable candidate as the formation of the old line from Yatton is largely intact.

Table 7.4, item 6 Radstock and Midsomer Norton

Redevelopment of the Radstock site needs to be carried out so that it does not prejudice reopening of the railway line to Frome, which could provide sustainable transport to the new town centre as well as bring tourists to see Radstockís industrial heritage. The Forest of Dean offers a good example of how another former mining area can be transformed with a rail connection, ie the Dean Forest Railway, which links with main line trains and is a major attraction in its own right.

11.9.44 Is it really sensible, in view of concerns about energy supplies, to be thinking of converting a former railway (in South Bristol) into a road ? Although the Bristol- Radstock railway formation has, I believe, been breached at Whitchurch, its most significant structure (Pensford Viaduct) remains and it may well prove possible to reinstate the route for light rail with some degree of street running. This might be a long term candidate for the tram trains suggested in 6.3.1.

Nigel Bray, Hon. Secretary, Railfuture Severnside.

severnside@railfuture.org.uk


Mr. Mark Hopwood,
Managing Director,
First Great Western,
Milford House
1 Milford Street
SWINDON
SN1 1HL

7 September 2010

Dear Mr. Hopwood,

Customer Information Systems

Railfuture is aware that one reason for resistance to travelling by rail is the fear of getting on the wrong train. With this in mind I am writing to ask whether First Great Western intends to replace the unsatisfactory customer information system it inherited from Wessex Trains at major stations such as Gloucester, Cheltenham, Westbury and Weston-super-Mare.

Project Inform, a legacy of Wessex Trains, was first introduced by Wales & West Passenger Trains in 1997 / 98. Whilst it provided real time customer information at unstaffed stations which hitherto had none, it has proved unsuitable for larger stations. This system has special difficulty in reacting to platform changes, which are fairly common at Gloucester, and to trains arriving at a station out of sequence, which often occur at Cheltenham, particularly when Cross Country services are delayed. It is not unusual at Gloucester for trains to be announced as running late but which arrive on time. I have heard anecdotally that Project Inform has a tendency to miss out TRUST reporting points. All things considered, it is an inferior system to that installed by FGW at Reading, Swindon and the two main Bristol stations.

On Sunday 5 September I was at Cheltenham awaiting the 16.33 FGW service to Swindon. Although the 16.18 Arriva Trains Wales train to Cardiff had departed (about five minutes late), the tape made two announcements that this ATW service would be the next to arrive at Platform 1. The system then announced that the 16.25 XC train to Bristol would be the next arrival but almost immediately afterwards the 16.33 entered the platform. Some intending passengers were confused and asked the Train Manager whether that was the Bristol train. Instances like this occur fairly frequently, although in many cases the station staff at Cheltenham and Gloucester have been able to override the tape and make live announcements giving correct information. It does seem that the staff at these former Wessex stations are having to bail out an information system which is unequal to the task.

The Project Inform scripts are often riddled with superfluous words, most notably in an excruciating 24-word explanation of a request stop. In 2006 at a Railfuture meeting, FGWís then Regional Manager, Severn & Solent referred to FGW having inherited "a rag bag of information systems which donít all work in the same way". Four years on, Cheltenham, Gloucester and other ex Wessex stations are still saddled with an information system which was never fit for purpose and is ripe for replacement. If funding is not available for a new system across the FGW network, an extension of the system currently used at the original FGW stations to serve those inherited from Wessex would be most welcome.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray
Hon. Secretary,
Railfuture Severnside.

Reply from Mark Hopwood, 22 September 2010:

"Thank you for your letter regarding our Customer Information System. As you know, the system we inherited when we took over the Greater Western franchise is old and unreliable. It is simply no longer capable of processing the increasing amount of information passed through it and as a result, failures have been frequent.

We know how important it is that we are providing our customers with timely and accurate information. I agree with you that mistakes can really knock our customersí confidence and this is something we are very keen to eradicate.

You will be pleased to know we are currently well underway with a multi million pound project to replace the entire system. This means we will be providing a new Customer Information System at approximately half our stations. In addition, all stations will have a new help point on every platform, providing telephone access to both the emergency services and National Rail Enquiries.

We are not only replacing the equipment but we are looking at the way we provide information as a whole. A significant part of this is the improvements we are making to the way we communicate with Network Rail, meaning information gets to where it is needed much more quickly, especially during disruption. We are also looking at the content of our announcements and explanations to ensure that they are clear.

My team and I are really looking forward to the positive changes this work will bring. We know that information provision is currently an area that lets us down, but with a new system and a more proactive approach, I am confident we can really excel. I trust you will start to notice the improvements as the project progresses. In the meantime do feel free to contact me with feedback."


The Editor,

Western Daily Press Avenue
Temple Way
BRISTOL
BS99 7HD

7 August 2010

Dear Sir,

It is true, as Philip Hammond says (WDP, 5 August), that the previous Government cancelled an order for new diesel trains for the West of England when it announced the plan to electrify the Great Western Main Line. Yet if the electrification scheme becomes a victim of the October spending review, the South West is likely to lose an opportunity to acquire more modern local trains also.

Electrification would not only benefit the economy of places like Bristol, Bath and Swindon but would enable diesel trains currently working suburban services in the London and Reading areas to be redeployed in the Bristol area. If this rolling stock becomes available for local services radiating from Bristol, it will help the prospects for expanding the network and reopening the lines to Portishead, Thornbury and the Henbury loop.

Compared with other major European railways, a relatively small proportion of the UK rail system is electrified. Our transport infrastructure is unduly dependent on imported fuel but the Government is saying that the national economic recovery requires a revival of exports. A programme of rail electrification would make a useful contribution to improving our balance of payments.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray
Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside


Spatial Planning Team
South Gloucestershire Council
PO Box 2081
South Gloucestershire
BS35 9BP

29 July 2010

South Gloucestershire Core Strategy Consultation

All the following comments relate to Section 7 of the Draft Core Strategy, "Tackling Congestion and Improving Accessibility". We welcome the Councilís policy to enhance travel to significant destinations without the use of a car and the statement that disused railway land will be safeguarded for possible future use by passenger and / or freight trains.

Henbury station

Following the concerns raised over the sale of the Henbury station site in 2008, we are very pleased that a site there is shown as safeguarded on the map (Fig. 2). Even if the designated site is the same one which was sold, it can be protected by ensuring that no planning permission is given for a change of use which would prevent the station from reopening. We understand that this approach is being adopted by Somerset County Council following the recent sale of land adjoining the former Chard Junction station.

Reopening of the Henbury loop line to passengers as part of an enhanced rail network for the Greater Bristol area would complement existing passenger lines. This line passes very close to Bristol Airbus, Filton Airfield, Filton College and Rolls Royce. It also has the potential to serve the Cribbs Causeway retail complex. Projected housing at Catbrain would also be near the line. There is a strong case for safeguarding additional station sites, nearer to these existing or projected sources of traffic, including the former North Filton platform and at Charlton Common, west of Charlton tunnel.

Charfield station

We are pleased that Fig. 2 includes a safeguarded station site at Charfield. Reopening of this station has long been sought and would provide fast public transport to Bristol, Filton, Yate and Gloucester, thereby increasing access to employment and specialist services for people living in a wide rural area.

Greater Bristol Metro scheme

Railfuture welcomes the Councilís support for this proposed expansion of train services in the West of England Partnership area. Among the stations which would be served by the Metro network is Keynsham, which although just outside South Gloucestershire, is well placed to serve localities such as Bitton and Longwell Green. We strongly support the enhancements in recent years to train services at Keynsham and the lengthening of the station platforms. We believe it could play a greater role for both local and long distance travel from the south eastern Bristol fringes.

Patchway station, also involved in the Metro scheme, is adjacent to Rolls Royce and has regular trains to South Wales. Although facilities at the station are basic, it enjoys CCTV surveillance as a result of alterations to a camera on the Rolls Royce premises which now focuses on the platforms also.

We note that Pilning station is identified on the map as a Metro station, although its current service of one train, Saturdays Only, is practically useless. The service had been one train each way, Mondays to Saturdays for many years and this had been little used because the timings did not suit normal office hours in Bristol. We are not aware of any proposal to close the station and believe it would be more sensible to at least consider stopping two or three trains in each direction to test the market for peak hour travel to / from Bristol, Filton and South Wales. Whilst a regular train service into Bristol is available from Severn Beach, a basic service at Pilning would link the area more directly with South Wales as was the case in the 1970s.

The Bristol- Severn Beach line has enjoyed an enhanced service, including Sunday trains to Severn Beach, thanks to a three year subsidy from Bristol City Council to underwrite the provision of an additional train set. Railfuture supports the improved timetable this has made possible and which has resulted in substantially increased usage of the line. Figures released by the Office of Rail Regulation show an increase in passengers at Severn Beach from 38,202 in 2006 /07 to 74,712 in 2008 / 09.

Although Yate would be the northern terminus of the Metro network in the Regional Funding Advice bid, we see a strong case for extending it to Thornbury in the medium term via the currently freight only Tytherington branch line. First Great Western is believed to be interested in operating to Thornbury as part of a cross- Bristol network, subject to funding and availability of rolling stock. The arrival of new Class 172 trains in the West Midlands within the next two years would release older stock which may be leased by FGW for Bristol area services.

Railfuture is strongly in favour of four tracking the two track stretch of main line through between Filton Abbey Wood and Dr. Dayís Junction, Bristol. This was viewed favourably by Network Railís Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy published in March 2010 and would allow segregation of long distance and local trains through the congested North Bristol rail corridor.

Safeguarding of dismantled railway formations

The lines via Mangotsfield were closed in 1969-71 when retrenchment on the railways was the order of the day and there were few concerns about road traffic pollution or world oil reserves. Since then there has been a significant growth in population of the north eastern fringes of Bristol and a greater awareness that the UK needs to reduce its dependency on imported fuel. The Bristol- Mangotsfield- Westerleigh / Oldland Common routes could be reinstated for light or heavy rail when funding permits and, unlike the proposed Bus Rapid Transit, could be electrified. The cycleway could be retained or if necessary realigned, as is being done with the current rebuilding of the Airdrie- Bathgate railway where the formation had been used as a cycleway for many years. It should be possible to rectify the encroachment of the A4174 Ring Road on the trackbed in the Shortwood area by reserving a strip of land alongside the road for eventual reinstatement of a railway.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray
Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside.


3 June 2010

Mr. Ryan Bunce
Transport Policy Officer
Strategic Planning
Somerset County Council
C7 County Hall
The Crescent
TAUNTON
TA1 4DY

Dear Mr. Bunce,

Chard Junction station

Further to our Ďphone conversation of Tuesday 1 June, I write to confirm that Railfuture Severnside, which covers Gloucestershire, Somerset, Wiltshire and Greater Bristol, favours reopening this station because of population growth in Chard, the proximity of Forde Abbey and the need for transport to reduce its impact on the environment.

I understand from our discussion that reopening of the station remains a long term aspiration of the County Council and that the recent sale of land in the former goods yard would not prevent this from happening. You mentioned that the sale has not resulted in a change of land use and that the County intends to protect the station site through the planning process.

Railfuture believes that the enhanced train service on the Waterloo- Exeter line arising from the new passing loop and second platform at Axminster has strengthened the case for reinstating Chard Junction station when funding permits. With longer term uncertainties over petrol supplies it would make sense to reduce the distance people have to drive to a station.

Thank you again for explaining the current situation regarding the site.

Yours sincerely,

Nigel Bray
Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside.


1 June 2010.

Gypsy & Traveller DPD

Economy & Enterprise
Wiltshire Council
County Hall
Bythesea Road
TROWBRIDGE
BA14 8JN.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Gypsy and Traveller Sites Consultation

Railfuture recognises that local authorities have a statutory duty to provide sites for Gypsies and Travellers. We have no objection in principle to sensibly located permanent and temporary sites for Travelling People within Wiltshire.

Our main concern is that land for potential railway stations might possibly be lost if future transport needs were not adequately considered during the selection of sites for Gypsies and Travellers. My organisation believes there is a strong case for a number of additional stations on existing railways in the county (Note 1 overleaf), based on rising population in the areas concerned and the success of almost all railway reopenings in recent years (Note 2).

Whilst we are impressed by the statements made in the Consultation document (paras. 6.1.7 and 7.3.2) which suggest that sites for Travelling People are unlikely to be adjacent to railways or major highways, we note also the comment (6.1.3) that relatively flat sites close to a public road would be favoured. This would appear to discourage conversion of former station sites above or below street level but might not rule out use of others on more level ground. We would therefore summarise our concerns as follows:

(a) Potential station sites might be lost through short term expediency (the need to establish Gypsy & Traveller sites fairly urgently) taking precedence over longer term transport needs which are more difficult to predict.

(b) Some disused railway formations have potential for reinstatement in the long term, with the need for transport systems to become less dependent on imported oil and to reduce their carbon emissions. Our response to the Wiltshire 2026 Consultation asked for three former railway routes to be safeguarded, namely Chippenham- Calne; Holt- Devizes- Patney; and Savernake- Marlborough. It would be most regrettable if aspirations for a larger railway system in Wiltshire were to be compromised by the erection of permanent

Gypsy & Traveller facilities (or indeed any other buildings) on these linear sites.

Yours sincerely,
Nigel Bray
Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside.

 

Notes.

1. Within the Wiltshire Council area Railfuture Severnside believes there is a strong case for new or reopened stations at:

Corsham

Devizes Parkway (either on the former Lavington station site or at Lydeway where the A342 crosses the London- Penzance main line)

Hullavington

Wootton Bassett

Wylye

2. See for instance Britainís Growing Railway, the A-Z of Rail Reopenings, published by Railfuture, 2010.


28 December 2009

28 December 2009.

Spatial Planning Team
Wiltshire County Council
County Hall
Bythesea Road
TROWBRIDGE
BA14 8JN.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Wiltshire 2026 Ė Planning for Wiltshireís Future

I write on behalf of Railfuture Severnside, which covers Wiltshire north of Salisbury Plain; Somerset, Gloucestershire and Greater Bristol. The following is Railfutureís input to the Wiltshire 2026 and Core Strategy Consultation.

Strategic Objective 7: To promote sustainable forms of transport

We would not disagree with the key outcomes as stated in the document but would draw attention to the unique environmental advantages of railways in this context. Rail is capable of moving large volumes of people and goods at high speeds and with minimal impact on the environment. If rail services can be expanded to provide an attractive alternative to road transport, there is every likelihood of improving air quality and reducing fuel consumption.

Railfuture believes that a truly sustainable transport system needs to be based on a policy to reduce dependence on imported petrol. Most advanced European nations have electrified a substantial proportion of their rail networks and the UK is catching up. The Governmentís recent decision to electrify the main lines from London to Bristol and Swansea will create great opportunities to develop the rail network within Wiltshire. Whilst the immediate benefits will be felt in Chippenham and Swindon, which will be served by electric trains, other First Great Western routes in the county are likely to see a cascade of relatively modern diesel rolling stock currently used on suburban services between Paddington, Oxford and Newbury, which are to be electrified as part of the same scheme. These Turbo diesel sets built in the mid 1990s have a better ambience than the 1980s stock used on many local services in West Wiltshire and their relatively wide bodies will almost certainly restrict them to the routes of the former Great Western Railway.

Electric trains are generally capable of faster acceleration than are diesels, so that it may prove possible to accommodate additional stops by certain main line services without lengthening schedules unduly. It may therefore be feasible to introduce some semi-fast electric multiple units calling at reopened stations at Corsham and Wootton Bassett, even if these stations were served mainly by a new diesel stopping service between Bristol and Swindon. On several FGW routes, eight coach High Speed Trains (HSTs) are already calling at smaller stations by means of selective door opening, eg the Exeter- Paddington semi-fasts serving Pewsey (and one each way at Bedwyn) as well as Westbury and stations in Somerset and West Berkshire.

We certainly support the principle of safeguarding transport corridors as a way to promote sustainable transport. In this context we have identified three closed railway formations in Wiltshire which have potential to reopen as railways in the longer term. Whilst there may be little prospect of their reinstatement within the Plan Period, road traffic levels in 25-30 yearsí time may well cause people to ask why the rail corridors were not protected in 2010. Almost all the lines and stations reopened in recent years have generated far more journeys than had been predicted officially. Where population growth, industry and tourism are significant, it would make sense to safeguard routes which could be restored to provide an energy efficient alternative to car and lorry transport, thereby helping to reduce the UKís dependence on imported oil.

The disused trackbeds which are substantially intact and pass through significant centres of population, business and tourism are Chippenham- Calne,

Holt- Devizes- Patney; and Savernake- Marlborough.

Community Areas

Railfuture would like to make the following points concerning specific Community Areas defined by the Plan.

Trowbridge

It is good to see recognition (para. 3.2.5) that opportunities exist to expand the capacity of the rail network. More frequent and longer trains on the Cardiff- Portsmouth and Swindon- Salisbury routes would benefit not only the county town but Bradford-on-Avon, Melksham, Warminster and Westbury also.

The Cardiff- Portsmouth route links West Wiltshire with seven major cities and most of the principal stations served by it, including Salisbury and Westbury, are junctions with other main lines, offering connections to a very large number of destinations with one change of train. Both the Cardiff- Portsmouth service and a more frequent service on the Swindon- Melksham- Salisbury line would link most of the largest settlements in the County, along with the neighbouring Swindon Borough.

The reinstatement of three-car formations on Cardiff- Portsmouth trains in 2008 was most welcome but the likely cascade of rolling stock arising from GW electrification offers an opportunity to increase the frequency between Bristol and Salisbury to half hourly, with some trains calling only at principal stations, as suggested in the Draft GW Route Utilisation Strategy.

Wootton Bassett and Cricklade

We note the comments in para. 3.3.1 about the high level of commuting from Wootton Bassett to Swindon. This is hardly surprising in view of the proximity and relative sizes of the two towns. This flow of commuters has been very significant for decades, so why not reduce the pressure on the road network by reopening Wootton Bassett station ? A station would also enable people to commute more easily to Chippenham, Bath and Bristol. It could be served by an enhanced Swindon- Westbury- Salisbury service and / or a Bristol- Chippenham local service.

The intention of the Plan to make small towns more self contained may have its merits but arguably a truly vibrant community is one which interacts with other flourishing centres. Even if most people living in a particular Community Area also worked in it, there would still be a demand for leisure travel. For longer distance journeys such as tourism and specialist shopping, trains would be more likely than buses to persuade people to leave their cars at home.

Corsham

The comment about the station being unlikely to reopen before 2026 is unduly pessimistic. Even at the time when a previous attempt to reopen it was killed off by the now defunct Strategic Rail Authority, rail projects were being funded by other local authorities such as Hampshire, which put money into the reopening of Chandlerís Ford station. This particular example has benefited Wiltshire because it led to the introduction of an hourly loop service between Salisbury, Southampton, Eastleigh and Romsey in December 2007. A stopping passenger service of the kind required to provide an attractive service for Corsham station is more likely to happen as a result of GW electrification.

Because MoD development is scheduled for Corsham, the station would encourage inward as well as outward commuting, which is likely to increase the viability of a Bristol- Chippenham / Swindon local service. It cannot be advantageous to have peak hour congestion on the A4 aggravated by the lack of a station at Corsham. The town is much larger than many of the settlements in Wales and Scotland where stations have reopened in recent years, for instance Laurencekirk (pop. 3,500) which reopened in May 2009 and where usage equates to 65,000 journeys per annum instead of the forecast 35,000.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside.

 

 


10 December 2009.

Mr. Mike Hodson,
Managing Director,
London Midland,
PO Box 4323,
BIRMINGHAM B2 4JB.

Dear Sir,

LM Worcester- Gloucester service

When London Midland introduced regular services between Worcester and Gloucester a year ago, Railfuture Severnside saw this as a valiant attempt to improve journey opportunities between Worcestershire and South West England. The Class 170s deployed on the service have been very comfortable and in my experience mostly punctual. One advantage of travelling by LM from Gloucester and Cheltenham has been that, unlike First Great Western, its trains to Worcester have not originated from Bristol or beyond, thereby avoiding most of the performance risks associated with long routes.

Naturally my organisation is very disappointed at LMís decision to withdraw the service from 13 December, not least because FGWís frequency on the route is only every two hours. Perhaps you would be good enough to explain the decision. The article in the December issue of Modern Railways, "Turning round London Midland", does not mention that the Gloucester service is being withdrawn, although the emphasis on improving LMís performance suggests that it may have been axed to release resources for LMís core network.

In responding to the recent Draft Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy, Railfuture Severnside asked for greater recognition in train service planning of the dispersal of population away from large cities and conurbations. In our view the travel needs of intermediate towns between Birmingham and Bristol are not being adequately met by existing Cross Country routes or by other operatorsí local services. The LM Gloucester service had its difficulties but its introduction represented a step forward and it deserved to be developed, possibly with better paths, better platform utilisation at Worcester Shrub Hill and lower fares, rather than scrapped.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary,
Railfuture Severnside.

London Midland replied on 19 January 2010 as follows:

Thank you for your letter to Mike Hodson regarding London Midlandís Worcester- Gloucester service.

We share your disappointment at the withdrawal of this service. Unfortunately it proved unsustainable given the level of use which it generated. The service was additional to our Service Level Commitment and so needed to cover its costs, which it did not.

Should the opportunity arise to introduce a service in the future which has a reasonable prospect of covering its costs then we would be happy to investigate.

Yours sincerely,

Alex Hynes

Commercial Director.

 


20 November 2009.

GW RUS Consultation Response
RUS Programme Manager
Network Rail
Floor 4
Kings Place
90 York Way
LONDON N1 9AG.

Consultation on Great Western Route Utilisation Strategy

1. Railfuture Severnside finds much in the RUS that encourages the expansion of rail services in mid Western England. In particular we support proposals to:

(a) progress the reopening of the Portishead branch.

(b) reinstate four running lines between Bristol Temple Meads and Parson Street.

(c) redouble Swindon- Kemble, with a recommendation that additional block sections be provided between Kemble and Standish Junction.

(d) accelerate and lengthen a number of Cardiff- Portsmouth services.

(e) develop the Exeter- Paddington semi-fast service, possibly to hourly frequency, after 2016.

(f) reinstate a fourth platform face at Westbury.

(g) develop a meaningful Swindon- Salisbury service via Melksham.

(h) electrify Swindon- Cheltenham and Gloucester- Severn Tunnel Junction after completion of GW Main Line electrification.

(i) operate a seven day railway on principal routes.

2. The need to consider further reopenings

With the exception of the Portishead branch and a passing reference to the proposed Swindon North station, the RUS has little or nothing to say about line and station reopenings. We understand this is because any project which has no identified funding has been treated as an aspiration and removed from consideration at this stage. In our view this is a mistaken approach because:

(a) Funding may become available if other transport projects are cancelled or delayed. In the North East this eventuality has enabled a scheme for upgraded rail services between Bishop Auckland, Darlington and Saltburn to proceed.

(b) The Benefits to Cost Ratio (BCR) of a scheme considered by the RUS is likely to improve with the inclusion of potential stations serving areas of population growth or severe road congestion. It would appear that the "all stations" Bristol- Chippenham service evaluated (6.9.10.2) has featured only the existing stations, even though the obvious intermediate calling point for a local train service east of Bath would be a reopened station at Corsham. With Chippenham already served by hourly fast trains between Bristol and London, there would seem little point in an additional "local" service westwards from Chippenham unless Corsham, a town designated for major housing and industrial development, were served by it. Reopening of Corsham station has long been sought and the site is protected until 2018 by a Section 106 agreement. We suggest that the absence of an intermediate station between Bath and Chippenham is the very reason why extension of local trains east of Bath appears to produce a disappointing BCR.

(c ) The vast majority of new passenger lines and stations opened or reopened in recent years have exceeded expectations in terms of usage. Most recently this has proved to be the case at Laurencekirk, Aberdeenshire, which opened in May 2009 and where the forecast of passenger journeys per year has been revised from 35,000 to 65,000. If these figures can be achieved at a town with a population of 3,500 there is every reason to expect that reopening of stations such as Corsham, Wellington and Wootton Bassett, which have populations between 10,000 and 13,000, would be very well supported in terms of passengers.

(d) Serious consideration should be given to progressing rail projects which are supported by all the local authorities in the area concerned. For instance, the need for daily, all year train services between Minehead and Taunton over, but not necessarily operated by, the West Somerset Railway, is recognised by Somerset County, Taunton Deane Borough and West Somerset District Councils.

3. The need for more capacity in Bristolís rail network

Whilst the proposal for four running lines between Temple Meads and Parson Street is most welcome, we are surprised that the RUS claims (6.9.9.1) that restoration of four tracks between Dr. Dayís Junction and Filton Abbey Wood does not produce a favourable BCR. This section is a major bottleneck in the Great Western system and resulted from a shortsighted decision made in the mid 1980s to reduce four tracks to two in order to save maintenance on half of an underbridge at Stapleton Road. Since then the route has become much busier with the half hourly Cross Country service, more frequent Cardiff- Portsmouth services, a Worcester/ Gloucester- Bristol stopping service and freight trains from Portbury Dock. The RUS itself expects (3.8.8) coal imported via Portbury to be railed to Aberthaw when Didcot A power station is closed in 2015; this would naturally funnel more traffic via Dr. Dayís Junction- Filton Abbey Wood.

The complete section from Temple Meads / North Somerset Junction to Bristol Parkway/ Patchway is included in the GW Main Line Electrification scheme so that electric trains could run to Temple Meads via Parkway or to South Wales via Bath if the need arose. This will strengthen the case for additional track capacity in the Filton corridor. If electrification is completed before the third and fourth tracks are reinstated, it is vital that provision is made for this to happen at a later date.

Instead of seeking to reduce the Bristol- Severn Beach service to fit the present infrastructure, NR should be welcoming the improved frequency between Temple Meads and Avonmouth (underwritten by Bristol City Council), which has produced a 40 % increase in passenger numbers. A half hourly service would be feasible if the line were doubled between Clifton Down and Montpelier. Quadrupling Dr. Dayís Junction- Filton Abbey Wood makes sense for efficient segregation of long distance and local trains. It would enable a half hourly passenger service to operate over the Henbury Loop, serving major centres of employment such as Bristol Airbus and the Cribbs Causeway retail complex. These aspirations for an expanded rail network across Bristol should be seen as presenting an opportunity (to increase the benefits of a four track main line through the north of the city) rather than a problem.

4. Gaps and Options: West Midlands- South West corridor

We are astonished at the very narrow scope of Option G, which deals with the question of connectivity and capacity in the West Midlands- South West corridor. This Option considers only Cross Country Trains (XC) services between the major cities of both Regions, which are arguably quite good, notably the hourly Bristol- Manchester services, some of which are extended to / from Plymouth.

Although this may be outside the geographical boundaries of the GW RUS, we must point out that the real weakness in connectivity between the two Regions is the difficulty of through travel between Worcestershire and stations south of Gloucester. In theory this was alleviated by London Midlandís Worcester- Gloucester service introduced in December 2008 but which created few additional connections for stations north of Worcester and is being withdrawn from 13 December 2009. A journey from Gloucester or Cheltenham to Droitwich, Kidderminster or Stourbridge is likely to involve changing (or walking) between the two Worcester stations. It is of course possible to travel via Birmingham at higher fares but in many cases this requires a walk between Snow Hill and New Street stations. The result is that rail travel between Worcestershire and the South West tends to involve long journey times in relation to distance, comparing unfavourably with car travel via the A449 and M5.

This section of the RUS does not appear to have recognised the dispersal of population away from big cities to satellite towns on the periphery of, or indeed outside, the main conurbations. The travel needs of these towns are not being met by existing XC routes or by all stations local services. We favour a semi-fast Birmingham- Exeter service to improve longer distance travel from stations such as Bromsgrove, Droitwich, Worcester Shrub Hill, Ashchurch, Gloucester, Weston-super-Mare and Bridgwater. This may well require additional capacity such as the upgrading of loops at Haresfield and Charfield to passenger standards.

Another significant omission from the RUS is the question of capacity through Cheltenham. Despite its position on a major rail artery, the station has only two running lines, neither of which is bi-directional. Train or infrastructure failures on either the up or the down lines can produce massive delays, as happened during Cheltenham Gold Cup week in March 2007 when an HST power car failed north of the station. Reversible working at Cheltenham may require resignalling and an additional crossover but is at least as important as higher line speeds for improving capacity in the Birmingham- Bristol corridor.

5. The need for improvements in the Swindon area

Swindon has grown enormously over the past 40 years and is now possibly the largest settlement in the UK without any suburban rail stations. The town attracts a great deal of commuter traffic inwards from a sizeable hinterland and outwards to Bristol, Reading and London. Swindon Borough Councilís proposal for a station in the northern suburbs on the Gloucester line is most welcome. This new station may produce overcrowding on peak hour train services in the Stroud Valley, so we would recommend the provision of additional Swindon North- Paddington semi-fast trains, which could also relieve pressure on South Wales and Bristol- Paddington services calling at Swindon.

Swindon would be a far more logical terminus than Chippenham for any additional local service eastwards from Bath (6.9.10.2), whether a new platform at Chippenham is provided or not. Reopening of both Corsham and Wootton Bassett stations may well make a Bristol- Swindon stopping service viable. Nevertheless, Wootton Bassett could be served by the projected Swindon- Salisbury service if a Bristol- Chippenham service were introduced.

6. Option K: Capacity improvements at Westbury

It is good to see that the RUS appreciates the need for more capacity in and around Westbury (6.9.11), notably the proposal for an additional platform face. If the aspiration (6.6.3.5) to upgrade the Melksham line as a diversionary route for container traffic materialises, there is a case for a loop at or near Melksham station to minimise conflict between freight trains and the proposed enhanced passenger service. However, the suggestion to remove freight trains from Westbury station and divert them to the Westbury Avoiding Line (6.9.11) would not be feasible for any trains to / from the Salisbury direction, which have to run through the station via Westbury South Junction.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary
Railfuture Severnside.

 


29 July 2009

Mr. Russ Cunningham

Head of Rail Planning

ATOC

40 Bernard Street

LONDON WC1N 1BY.

Dear Mr. Cunningham,

Connecting Communities: Expanding Access to the Rail Network

Railfuture Severnside welcomes this Report and the interest it shows in three possible line reopenings in the Greater Bristol area. In particular it is good to see the additional data concerning Portishead (Supplementary Note, page 20) and recognition that the case for reopenings can be justified as part of economic regeneration of the localities in question.

We support all the Recommendations listed in Section 8, although we would question the reference to NATA. Is that not the New Approach to Transport Appraisal, the very formula which has worked against rail schemes in the recent past by treating modal shift from private car to rail as a disbenefit because there would be a decrease in fuel duty paid to the Treasury ?

One of our few reservations about the methodology of the Report is the minmum population of 15,000. Some smaller settlements currently without stations would probably generate as many trips as would some of those considered by the Report. These would seem to fall into four categories:

(a) where market towns of 10.000- 15,000 inhabitants have large rural catchment areas, so that a reopened station would act as a railhead for a wide area. A case can be made for a Parkway station a few miles south of Devizes on the Reading- Taunton main line to serve the town and its hinterland.

(b) where a town is such a major centre of tourism that it is the destination of many long distance journeys. Minehead is a prime example.

(c) where planned employment growth at a settlement on an existing passenger line would create a demand for travel to the town, over and above the likely commuting from it to larger towns and cities nearby. Corsham is a case in point because of plans to relocate MoD premises there. Taken together with the severe peak hour congestion on the A4 between Bath and Chippenham, this would support reopening of the station even though its present population may be under 15,000. New housing development is proposed and this is why there is a Section 106 agreement to contribute to the capital cost of the station.

(d) where a town of slightly under 15,000 people lies on a main line serving a neighbouring larger settlement at which major commercial or industrial development is taking place. Wellington now has a population of 13,000 according to Taunton Deane Borough Council and it would make sense to reopen its station in view of the Firepool development, on which work has started, close to Taunton station.

The Reportís comments about route protection are excellent, especially the need for early Government action to prevent further erosion of disused formations. Safeguarding a trackbed could make the difference between the creation or loss of a valuable diversionary route between major traffic generators. If the Cheltenham- Stratford line were to reopen as a through route, it would not only connect major centres of tourism but help keep main line trains running in the event of disruption north of Gloucester. The proposed eco-town at Middle Quinton would be on that line south of Stratford.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside.


11 July 2009.

Transport in the South West

South West Regional Committee Inquiry - Call for Evidence

Railfuture Severnside submission

1. Summary

Demographic changes and environmental considerations favour a growth in demand for public transport but the effect of short-sighted decisions involving railways need to be remedied (Section 2).

Buses have a role to play in local travel but they are unlikely on their own to be competitive with car transport (Section 3).

Decision making has tended to work against rail schemes because their environmental benefits have been discounted and because of conflicting policies between Government Departments (Section 4).

Enhancement of Bristolís rail network, selective station reopenings, more rolling stock and better rail / bus interchange should be priorities (Section 5).

2. Is Transport provision in the South West adequate for the demands placed upon the Region ?

2.1 Demand for transport in the Region is likely to continue to grow because the South West is a popular retirement area. Additionally the rate of economic growth predicted for the Region is higher than the UK average. Retired people are less inclined than persons of working age to drive cars and many make good use of free bus travel and Senior Railcards. Tourism is very important in the South Westís economy but there is widespread acceptance that unlimited growth of road traffic will undermine the attractive environment which motivates people to visit the Region in the first place.

2.2 The Draft South West Regional Spatial Strategy, in its rewritten Chapter 5 (Transport), favoured a reduction in the rate of road traffic growth and also took the view that transport networks in the Region needed to be able to recover quickly from disruption (paras. 5.1.3 and 5.1.4). Taken together, those two policies suggest that it would be sensible to create more capacity in the South Westís rail network. If the railways are to take some of the pressure off an overcrowded road system, as Railfuture believes they should, they will need greater operational flexibility to enable them to restore normal operations with the minimum of delay in the event of obstructions such as Engineering work, flooding or damage to rail bridges by road vehicles.

2.3 One of the main weaknesses in the Regionís rail system are the bottlenecks which were created by short-sighted economies in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Reduction in track and signalling capacity was understandable when retrenchment on the railways was the order of the day but such decisions have been overtaken by the increased demand for rail transport and the realisation that road congestion cannot be solved merely by highway construction. Two of the worst bottlenecks are the five mile section through North Bristol between Dr. Dayís Junction and Filton Abbey Wood, which was reduced from four tracks to two in 1984; and the singling of 12 Ĺ miles of the London- Cheltenham main line between Swindon and Kemble in 1968. The former is now an obstacle to enhancement of Bristolís rail network, affecting both local and long distance trains; while the latter creates delays particularly when trains between London and South Wales have to be diverted via Gloucester whenever the Severn Tunnel or the routes leading to it are disrupted.

2.4 Rail passenger journeys to, from and within Bristol increased by no less than 75 % between 1995 and 2005 according to Fig. 5.2 in the Governmentís 2007 White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway. This growth took place despite virtually no investment in local rail infrastructure during that period. Most railway stations in the Region experienced increases in patronage between 2005/06 and 2006/07 according to the Station Usage Files published by the Rail Regulator in June 2008.

2.5 A number of towns which lost their stations in the 1960s have grown very considerably since then. These include Corsham, Wellington and Wootton Bassett, all situated on main lines. The Beeching Plan of 1963 took no account of dispersal of population from cities to satellite towns and one result is the massive peak hour congestion on, for instance, the A4 between Corsham and Bath; or the A369 between Portishead and Bristol. Major growth has occurred at Norton- Radstock, Portishead and Thornbury, which lie on the disused extremities of freight only lines. Other towns such as Devizes and Malmesbury once had their own branch railways but could be served by new stations a few miles away on existing main lines. A successful example is Ashchurch station, on the Bristol- Birmingham main line, which reopened in 1997 to serve Tewkesbury, 1 ĺ miles distant, by means of bus connections and abundant parking at the station.

2.6 In the longer term some currently dismantled lines should be considered for reopening in order to provide diversionary routes between main centres of population and industry. 10 miles of the Cheltenham- Stratford line has already reopened as as a heritage railway but its restoration as a through route would link major centres of tourism and also help to keep main line trains running in the event of obstructions between Cheltenham and the West Midlands.

3. Is the Region doing enough to promote environmentally friendly transport ?

3.1 There has been some enhancement of bus services in the Region, notably in Bristol and other major towns and cities. Railfuture has no objection in principle to such improvements, as buses can be a useful means of reaching a railway station, but buses have to compete with cars and lorries for road space. Not all main roads can accommodate bus lanes, nor do buses have toilets, air conditioning or space for bicycles. Buses generally stop frequently, because most of their passengers are making short journeys. Free bus travel for people over 60 has not surprisingly encouraged many journeys of less than a mile. Arguably this has made bus transport less attractive to people of working age, who tend to be motorists and more likely to be in a hurry. For these reasons it is very doubtful that buses alone can entice motorists out of their cars.

3.2 Rail has unique environmental advantages as a transport mode. It can carry very large numbers of people at speed along relatively narrow corridors of land. This makes it ideal for travel in areas where road congestion is significant, or for transporting crowds to sporting or other public events. Thus a restored passenger service on the Bristol- Portishead line would avoid the congested A369 and an intermediate station at Ashton Gate would help prevent gridlock around the Bristol City football stadium on match days. The new stadium will have 45,000 seats; this and proposed housing developments nearby suggest that Bristol City Council ought to be seeking a Section 106 agreement with developers to help fund the cost of a station. So far the only interest shown by the City Council has been to register Railfutureís nomination of a site for this station following a recent "Call for Sites" consultation.

3.3 One of the greatest strengths of the rail network is that it can be electrified and therefore reduce the UKís dependency on imported oil. Additionally there would be less pollution from electric as opposed to diesel trains. At present the only electrified railway in the South West is the main line from London to Bournemouth and Weymouth but Network Railís recent Electrification Route Utilisation Strategy favours wiring the Great Western Main Line from London to Bristol and Swansea as a high priority.

3.4 Despite the environmental benefits of the railways, there has been little enhancement of the rail network in the South West in recent years. It is true that some infrastructure removed in earlier decades has been restored here and there, eg Probus- Burngullow redoubling in Cornwall in 2006; work has begun to redouble three miles of route in the Axminster area and part of the North Cotswold Line. Four rail freight terminals have opened or reopened in the Region in the past five years, of which two are at Swindon, one in Bristol and one at Ashchurch. The latter was used to receive trains of bottled water from Scotland during the Gloucestershire floods of 2007. It would be sensible to develop intermodal rail / road freight depots in every local authority area of the Region, so as to be better prepared for emergencies and severe weather.

3.5 What is most disappointing, when comparing the South West with other UK Regions, is that no new stations or passenger routes have opened since 1997. Indeed the Bristol- Oxford service, introduced in 1998 and which was intended to enable Corsham station to reopen, was withdrawn in 2003 by the now defunct Strategic Rail Authority. The Swindon- Salisbury service, which linked a number of growing towns including Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge, was reduced from five to two trains each way by the Department for Transport when it specified the Greater Western Franchise in 2006. This was despite a 35 % increase in passenger numbers on the route since 2002. Experience of rail reopenings in other UK Regions is most encouraging, for instance the Ebbw Vale (South Wales) and Alloa (Scotland) lines which reopened in 2008 have attracted far more users than had been forecast.

3.6 Whilst the current Regional Funding bid by the South West Regional Assembly includes three rail schemes (Kemble- Swindon redoubling; Bristol- Portishead; and a Greater Bristol Metro), the Assembly ranked them as a lower priority than road projects in the same bid. Of these the Westbury bypass has since been rejected by the Communities & Local Government Secretary. The greater urgency awarded to schemes based on increasing road traffic, higher carbon emissions and an underlying assumption that petrol would always be in abundance, flies in the face of intelligent thinking about climate change. The rail proposals were more equitable in that they would increase the mobility of both rail and road users by relieving pressure on road space.

4. Are the current arrangements for prioritising, approving and funding infrastructure projects effective and appropriate ?

4.1 Railfuture is very concerned that the priority given to road schemes in the RFA bid is likely to clean out the available money for Regional transport projects so that there may be no funds left within the Control Period to make the three rail schemes happen. Naturally the state of the national economy may result in some hard choices in public expenditure. We want the rail projects to materialise not only because of their environmental benefits but because they represent better value for money. Bristol- Portishead reopening has been costed at £25m for 11 miles of route, about £2.3m per mile. By contrast the now abandoned Westbury bypass would have cost £33m for three miles of road.

4.2 Privatisation of the railways created a very complicated administrative structure which requires the agreement of Network Rail, train operators and engineering companies before a rail scheme can get off the drawing board. Hitherto these organisations were divisions of British Rail. The present structure may deter some local authorities from promoting rail schemes because of the possibly greater time and complexity involved than with highway projects. One solution may be for one of the rail companies to become the leading sponsor for a project, to minimise the number of interfaces with local and national Government.

4.3 Lack of joined up thinking between Government Departments has been evident in some decisions concerning rail projects in the Region. For instance, one Department has proposed thousands of additional homes in Gloucestershire over the next 10-15 years. Another tells us to use public transport where possible. These policies would appear to support double tracking between Kemble and Swindon, part of the main rail artery between Gloucestershire and London. Yet the Office of Rail Regulation, which decides Network Railís investment budget, issued an unreasoned statement last October that the scheme to reinstate double track was not justified.

5. Priorities for improvement

5.1 Expansion of Bristolís suburban rail network is essential if Bristol and Bath are to avoid gridlock and to reduce air pollution. Reopening of the Portishead line should be followed by that of the Henbury loop (Avonmouth- Filton / Bristol Parkway), which is currently freight only but runs close to major centres of employment and commerce such as Bristol Airbus and Cribbs Causeway.

5.2 Where population growth and other developments justify it, stations should be opened or reopened on existing passenger lines. Corsham is a case in point because of planned housing and relocation of Ministry of Defence offices. Here a Section 106 agreement has protected the station site until 2018. In Gloucestershire, reopening of Stonehouse Bristol Road station would allow people in the Stroud area to travel more easily in the Bristol direction.


2 June 2009

Lord Adonis,

Minister of State for Transport,

 

Dear Lord Adonis,

Regional Funding Allocation 2: Transport schemes

I understand that a decision will be made shortly as to which of the transport projects shortlisted by the South West Regional Assembly earlier this year will receive Government funding and when work will start on the approved schemes. Railfuture believes that the three shortlisted rail schemes (Swindon- Kemble redoubling; Bristol- Portishead line; and the Greater Bristol Metro) deserve a higher priority than road building schemes in the RFA bid.

Transport projects seeking RFA funding are not supposed to increase carbon emissions. It is difficult to see how major new roads can meet this requirement as they are designed to accommodate a substantial increase in motor traffic, which requires abundant supplies of oil in the longer term. World events and the growing rate of oil consumption suggest that petrol may not be plentiful or cheap in the future. Railfuture believes that the Government ought to be planning to reduce dependency on imported fuel and instead embarking on a major programme of rail electrification.

Improvements to the rail system in the Region would help reduce carbon emissions by taking pressure off congested roads. The two schemes in the Bristol area are urgently needed to improve air quality and together would create a local rail network comparable to that in other major UK conurbations. The 2007 White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, revealed that growth in rail passenger travel in Bristol had risen at a much faster rate than in 12 other major provincial cities, which suggests that new and reopened lines and stations in the area would be very successful.

Railfuture is very pleased to read statements you have made in support of Swindon- Kemble redoubling. The present single track section limits the capacity of the main rail artery from Gloucestershire to London. It also reduces capacity on the only sensible diversionary route between South Wales and London whenever the Severn Tunnel (and routes leading to it) are closed either for planned Engineering work or because of unforeseen disruption.

Perhaps the best point in favour of the rail schemes in the RFA bid is that they represent good value for money. A recent estimate for Bristol- Portishead reopening (£25.3m for 11 miles of route) compares very favourably with £129m for the five mile Kingskerswell bypass.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary, Railfuture Severnside.

Also sent on 29 May 2009 to Rt. Hon. Ben Bradshaw, Minister for the South West


30 April 2009.

Director of Planning,

North Somerset Council,

Town Hall,

Walliscote Grove Road,

WESTON-SUPER-MARE

BS23 1UU.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Protection of sites for new railway stations

Railfuture Severnside, which covers the West of England Partnership area, together with Gloucestershire, Somerset and North Wiltshire, welcomes North Somerset Councilís support for reopening the Portishead railway line to passenger trains.

We understand that a site has been reserved for a station at Portishead but have some concerns regarding other possible stations on the line. We note that land adjacent to the original station site at Pill is for sale and are concerned that this should not prejudice reopening of the station,

The original station site at Pill (Grid Reference 524760) would appear to be the best location for a reopened station as it is near to the village centre. The old platforms remain and access would be possible on the up (north) side of the line. The land which is currently advertised for sale is on the same side, at the Portishead end of the old station, and was the former goods yard. In our view this land could be used to enhance a new station, eg by providing a car park for rail users or an access to the platform for disabled persons.

In the longer term we believe there is a case for additional stations at Ham Green and Portbury Shipyard. Ham Green Halt was originally just east of Pill tunnel at GR 535755. Now that there is a housing estate on the former hospital site, it would be advantageous to have a station there. If it were to be built, it would require an upgrading of the footpath access with adequate lighting.

A new station on or near to the original one serving Portbury Shipyard (GR 510760) could cater for people working at Royal Portbury Dock. I understand that at present the pedestrian access from the bus route to the Dock involves crossing a slip road from the M5 near to Gordano Services.

Railfuture notes that there is a planning application for a major housing development at Long Ashton on green belt land. We recognise that the application is controversial and have no view as to whether or not it should be approved. We do, however, consider that in view of the scale of the proposed development and its proximity to the main railway from Bristol to the South West, that in the event of that proposal going ahead, land should be reserved for a station to serve it.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside.


22 January 2009

Mr. B. Glasson,

Director of Planning, South Gloucestershire Council, Council Offices, Castle Street, THORNBURY BS35 1HF.

 

Dear Sir,

Protection of sites for new railway stations

You are probably aware that Bristol City Council recently invited suggestions for uses to which derelict or unused sites within its boundaries might be put. The exercise was known as the "Call for Sites" as part of the Bristol Development Framework.

Railfuture took the opportunity to propose that certain sites within the city be safeguarded as locations for new or reopened railway stations. It was noted that certain potential stations which would be very important for the revitalisation of Bristolís rail network are within South Gloucestershire. I am therefore writing to ask whether your Council would be prepared to protect the following sites for stations on the currently freight only line between Avonmouth and Filton:

1. North Filton, where the old platforms (Grid Ref. 602799) are still in place and would be well placed for Bristol Airbus, Rolls Royce and Royal Mail.

2. Charlton Common (GR 587798), just west of Charlton tunnel and near to Cedar House, to serve Cribbs Causeway and the proposed Catbrain development.

3. Under the "Call for Sites" procedure, Railfuture asked Bristol City Council to safeguard a site for a station at Henbury. The original station (GR 567798) was where the B4055 Station Road passed over the line and was very close to the present boundary between South Gloucestershire and Bristol. This site may well be just inside South Gloucestershire although the built up area of Henbury is mostly within the City.

Railfuture is very concerned at a press report that the original Henbury station site may have been sold to a developer. We consider it essential that either provision is made for access to a station on the original site or that a suitable alternative location is safeguarded. In view of the density of population at Henbury, a station to serve the locality would provide a great deal of business for a new cross- Bristol passenger service linking Filton with Portishead via Avonmouth, Clifton and Temple Meads.

Railfuture and Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways have asked the South West Regional Assembly to recommend priority for Government funding to reinstate passenger services on the Avonmouth- Filton and Bristol- Portishead lines in order to give the Bristol area a rail system fit for the 21st Century and comparable with the existing networks in other major UK conurbations.

In responding to Bristolís "Call for Sites", Railfuture also proposed the safeguarding of the formation which used to carry the third and fourth tracks of the main line between Dr. Dayís Junction (GR 606729) in central Bristol via Stapleton Road and Horfield to Filton Abbey Wood station (GR 609784). This linear site crosses into South Gloucestershire at GR 607779 close to a sports ground on the east side of the line. This main line was reduced from four tracks to two in the mid 1980s when British Rail was under pressure to make economies, in this case to save maintenance on half of an underline bridge at Stapleton Road station. This section of line is widely regarded in the railway industry as a bottleneck which constricts the capacity of the network in the Bristol area. Railfuture believes that at least a third track should be relaid in order to help segregate local and longer distance trains.

If anything requires clarification, please let me know.

Yours sincerely,

 

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside.


17 December 2008

Strategic & Citywide Policy Team
Bristol City Council
Brunel House
St. Georgeís Road
BRISTOL BS1 5UY.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Bristol Development Framework- Call for Sites Response Forms.

Please find enclosed three completed forms on behalf of the Severnside Branch of Railfuture, which covers Greater Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and North Wiltshire.

Railfuture believes that some currently disused lines and stations in the city have potential to be restored as part of a larger railway system for the Greater Bristol area and should therefore be safeguarded against developments which might frustrate this objective.

The portions of land which we believe should be protected for future rail use are as follows:

1. Formation of third and fourth tracks between Dr. Dayís Junction and city boundary towards Filton Abbey Wood station, including the derelict part of the girder bridge immediately north of Stapleton Road station.

2. Land for a station at Ashton Gate, slightly south of the original site.

3. Land for a station at Henbury, at or near the original site.

If anything requires clarification, please let me know.

Yours sincerely,

 

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary,

Railfuture Severnside.

 

Summary of site details as submitted to Bristol City Council

1. Reinstatement of quadruple track, Dr. Dayís Junction- Filton Abbey Wood.

Site begins at Dr. Dayís Junction (Grid Ref. 606729), near junction of Barrow Road, Barton Hill Road and Jarvis Street, BS2.

Site (rail trackbed) continues alongside existing double track line through to city boundary (GR 607779) near sports ground and to Filton Abbey Wood station (GR 609784).

Relocation of the community garden, occupying the disused trackbed at Stapleton Road station, would be required but there would appear to be unused land on the east side of the station.

Comments on Part 2, Section 9 of form:

"The main railway between Temple Meads and Filton was reduced to two tracks at a time when B.R. was under pressure to make economies and rail usage was forecast to decline. This trend has reversed in recent years, with particularly strong growth in the Bristol area. The Department for Transportís 2007 White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, revealed (fig. 5.2) that total rail use (local and InterCity) in Bristol had increased by 75 % from 1995/96 to 2004/05, well above that in the 12 other major cities in the same table.

Train services on this section of line are now more frequent than before two of the four tracks were removed. This stretch of railway is widely recognised as a bottleneck which constrains the expansion of the cityís rail network. In 2007 the Association of Train Companies (ATOC) report, Exploring the Potential: 25 ways to unlock capacity on Britainís railways, called for reinstatement of at least a third track. Expansion of capacity is essential for the efficient segregation of local and long distance trains through north Bristol."

2. Ashton Gate station

Railfutureís proposed site is at GR 568714, near to the level crossing at the junction of Ashton Vale Road and Winterstoke Road, BS3. This is slightly south west of the original site (GR 567715), which is now under an elevated roundabout.

Comments on Part 2, Section 9 of the form:

"The West of England Partnership Joint Local Transport Plan envisages reopening of passenger services on the Portishead railway line. The line at the (Ashton Gate) site is in use for freight trains. North Somerset Council recently purchased the disused section of track between Portishead and Pill with a view to early reinstatement of passenger trains between Portishead and Bristol.

A station at Ashton Gate would serve the present Bristol City football stadium and three trading estates on the west side of the level crossing. It could also become an interchange with buses on roads such as the A370. There may be plans to relocate the football stadium but alternative uses for that site may well generate additional passengers for a reopened station.

Railfuture understands that the original station is now underneath the A369 / A370 / A3029 road junction. Our proposed station site would, we believe, be more accessible for bus users, cyclists and pedestrians than the original station now would be."

3. Henbury station

The original station (Grid Ref. 567798) was where the B4055 Station Road

passed over the Avonmouth- Filton line.

Comments on Part 2, Section 9 of the form:

"Railfuture welcomes Bristol City Councilís funding of an additional train to provide a more frequent service between Temple Meads and Avonmouth. Reopening of the Henbury line to passengers is essential to the creation of a cross-city service linking major centres of employment, commuting and retail activity.

The Governmentís 2007 White Paper, Delivering a Sustainable Railway, revealed a strong demand for rail travel across the city (see its fig. 5.2 which shows growth in rail use at Bristol as well above that in 12 other major UK cities). This suggests that a passenger service on the heavily populated Henbury line would be well supported.

We are aware of the closeness of this site to the South Gloucestershire boundary and hope the two authorities can work together to safeguard land for a station."


November 2008

Last chance for Radstock railway ?

A crucial decision affecting Radstockís future may be taken at Bath & North East Somerset Councilís meeting at the end of November. A proposed housing development on former rail land may block the route of a possible reopened railway to Radstock. Local rail group Railfuture Severnside supports reopening of the disused railway between Radstock and Frome, and is urging planners to safeguard a corridor for future reinstatement of the line.

"We are not averse to new housing on former railway land," said Branch Secretary Nigel Bray, "but we must not lose this opportunity to safeguard the railway. It could become Radstockís gateway to the outside world." Campaigners have organised a petition against the proposals.

Norton- Radstock is one of the largest urban settlements in the South West without any form of connection to the national rail network. A planning inspector had previously recommended 80 homes on the site, which would allow future rail use. The current proposals under consideration are for 210 homes.

Railfuture is an independent organisation campaigning for better rail services for both passengers and freight (www.railfuture.org.uk)

For further information contact e-mail media@railfuture.org.uk

Further information about proposals to reopen the railway and the online petition can be found at http://www.northsomersetrailway.com


November 2008

Rail bottleneck causes anger

Local rail campaigners have condemned the decision by the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) not to authorise doubling of the line between Kemble and Swindon as ill informed and shortsighted. Railfuture Severnside says the decision reflects a low priority for the South West where railways are concerned and a complete lack of joined up thinking between Government departments.

"ORR has failed to understand that the line is not only the main rail artery between Gloucestershire and London but also a route of major strategic importance nationally. Leaving 12 miles of single track on a vital alternative route makes it more difficult for the railway system to recover from disruption," said Branch Secretary Nigel Bray.

The Stroud Valley line provides a diversionary route for trains between South Wales and the South East of England whenever the Severn Tunnel or the routes leading to it (Note 1) are closed, whether for engineering work (Note 2) or any unforeseen obstructions such as a failed train (Note 3).

Thousands of additional homes are planned for Gloucestershire and Swindon in the coming decades. "This will increase road congestion unless more frequent trains are provided, and this canít happen unless the bottleneck between Kemble and Swindon is expanded to double track", said Nigel.

Notes for Editors

1. The blockage need not be in the Severn Tunnel itself to result in diversion of trains via Kemble and Gloucester. An obstruction between the tunnel and Bristol Temple Meads or Bristol Parkway would have the same effect, as would blockage of the main line between Swindon and Bristol Parkway, for example when Sodbury tunnel has been flooded.

2. In 1999 Her Majestyís Rail Inspectorate, which was in charge of rail safety at the time, ordered Railtrack (now Network Rail) to carry out emergency work in the tunnel because of rail deterioration. All South Wales- Paddington services were diverted via Gloucester and Kemble.

3. A collision in the Severn Tunnel in December 1991, caused by failure of the "tell tale" wire which detects the presence of trains, resulted in diversion of South Wales- Paddington trains via Gloucester and Kemble.


 

1 August 2008.

 

Office of the Rail Regulator

1 Kemble Street

LONDON

WC2B 4AN.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Kemble- Swindon redoubling

Railfuture Severnside believes that double track should be reinstated on the section of route between Kemble and Swindon, for the following reasons.

1. Strategic importance of the route for Southern England and South Wales.

The Stroud Valley line forms part of the only realistic diversionary route for trains between South Wales and London whenever the Severn Tunnel is closed, whether for planned Engineering work or unforeseen contingencies. The same diversion via Kemble is employed if the routes between Swindon and the Severn Tunnel are themselves blocked, for example in 2006 when the junction at Wootton Bassett was remodelled. The Kemble route is also used to divert Cross Country services via Swindon and Bath when their booked route via Bristol Parkway is obstructed.

Although planned Engineering work in the Severn Tunnel provides for a special timetable in which South Wales- Paddington expresses call additionally at Gloucester, Stonehouse, Stroud and Kemble in place of the normal services at those stations, this naturally results in a curtailment of direct trains between Cheltenham and Paddington. Some of the latter could be accommodated were it not for the constriction of capacity arising from the 12 Ĺ mile single track section between Kemble and Swindon Loco Yard.

When there is unplanned disruption in the Severn Tunnel, or on the main line between it and Swindon, the addition of London- South Wales trains to the regular service along the Stroud Valley is likely to cause significant delays, at Standish Junction and at either end of the single track section. Equally, the combination of diversions (planned or unplanned) with a major incident on the main line between Paddington and Swindon can produce long delays. For instance on 28 August 2006 there was a suicide at Cholsey, between Reading and Didcot. Although this incident was 30 miles east of Swindon, it occurred on a day when Paddington- South Wales services were routed via Gloucester. The temporary closure of all four, and later two, tracks at Cholsey produced a queue of trains which waited variously at Reading, Didcot, Swindon and Kemble because only one train could traverse the Swindon- Kemble section.

The main line between London and South Wales via Swindon and Bristol Parkway is a prime candidate for electrification. If this happens, there will be regular diversions via Kemble during the electrification work, so it would make sense to complete the missing section of double track beforehand.

2. Population growth in the lineís catchment area.

Substantial housing development is planned in Gloucestershire, principally in or near the urban areas of Cheltenham, Gloucester and Stroud. If there is not to be more congestion on local roads, enhanced local rail services are needed. The rail stations at Gloucester and Stroud are centrally sited and while the one at Cheltenham is not, it does have frequent bus links to the town centre. There is a strong case for more frequent train services, at least during the peak hours, between Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon but the limitations of the single track section are a deterrent. Another reason to redouble the track between Kemble and Swindon is the proposed Swindon North station, which would be located on the present single line and needs an attractive level of service to justify the cost of construction.

3. Doubling makes sense in the context of an expanded railway system.

The singling of Kemble- Swindon was understandable in 1968, when B.R. was under pressure to demonstrate cost savings on routes it wished to keep open. Reduction in track capacity reflected Government expectations that passenger and freight traffic on the railways would gradually decline. The past ten years have seen a reversal of this trend, with rail freight increasing and passenger miles growing to record levels. In this context an increase in network capacity is now essential if the system is not to become congested. In particular, main lines such as Swindon- Gloucester need additional signalling sections to permit more frequent trains. Currently the 29 miles of route between Standish Junction and Swindon has just four signalling sections, viz. Standish Junction- St. Maryís Level Crossing; St. Maryís Crossing- Kemble; Kemble- Swindon Loco Yard; and Swindon Loco Yard- Swindon Junction. Naturally this limits the number of trains which can be accommodated at any one time and arguably inflates the schedules of both regular and diverted services.

The engineersí siding at Kemble on the up side, in the former Cirencester bay platform, should be retained if the line to Swindon is doubled. Railfuture believes that a larger rail system, involving selective reopening of lines, is essential in the long term if road traffic is to be reduced. The formation of the branch is substantially intact and could reopen when circumstances permit. The lead to this siding would then become the junction points for a reopened railway linking Cirencester with the national rail network.

Yours sincerely,

 

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary,

Railfuture Severnside.


Press Release 27 June 2008

Contact: Nigel Bray, Severnside Branch Secretary, Tel. 01452 501986.

Railfuture calls for a daily all year train service between Minehead and Taunton

Railfuture Severnside believes there is a very strong case for a regular daily passenger service over the West Somerset Railway between Minehead and the national rail network at Taunton. Such a service might be run by another operator willing to pay the WSR for the privilege of operating over its tracks.

1. An all year diesel railcar service running into Taunton station would provide opportunities for long distance rail travel to and from West Somerset, which badly needs more visitors in winter.

2. Train services from West Somerset at times suited to working hours would give local people better access to jobs in Taunton. The growing economy of the county town and particularly the Firepool development near the station require better local rail services if the main roads are not to become gridlocked.

3. There are many examples in the UK of heritage railways running into or adjacent to main line stations (Note 1). There are also Community Railways such as the Wensleydale Railway which aim to do so.

4. Railfuture envisages that a Community Rail service for West Somerset would run in spare paths outside the hours of normal WSR operation. The best example of this is in Germany, where the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen operates railcars at times of day or of the week when its heritage steam trains are not running (Note 2).

Notes

1. eg at Alton (Mid Hants Railway), Kidderminster (Severn Valley Railway), and Paignton (Torbay & Dartmouth Railway).

2. Three of the four Harzer Schmalspurbahnen routes provide a mixture of steam and community diesel services, notably on the Harzgerode- Quedlinburg line which has steam trains at weekends and railcars Mondays to Fridays.

Ends


Julian Crow
Regional Manager, West of England
First Great Western
PLYMOUTH
3 June 2008

 

Dear Julian,

May 2008 Timetable

Further to our correspondence of last year, I write on behalf of Railfuture Severnside to thank you for adding stops at Highbridge and Bridgwater in the 06.46 Bristol T.M.- Penzance, Mondays to Fridays. This will provide those two stations with a convenient outward train for a very full day out in Devon or Cornwall, as well as an additional morning peak service into Taunton and Exeter.

Yours sincerely,

 

Nigel Bray

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside.

Bridgwater had lost its direct trains to Exeter and points west in December 2006. The new service departs Highbridge 07.17 and Bridgwater 07.25, arriving Taunton 07.38, Exeter St. Davids 08.13, Plymouth 09.24 and Penzance 11.24.)


 

2 April 2008.

Rail Transport Unit

Welsh Assembly Government

Cathays Park

CARDIFF

CF10 3NQ.

Dear Sir or Madam,

Additional rolling stock for Cardiff- Portsmouth service.

Railfuture Severnside welcomes the loan of five Class 150 sets from Arriva Trains Wales to First Great Western to relieve overcrowding on the Cardiff- Portsmouth route. This will allow FGW to recreate three-car Class 158s from its existing fleet, thereby restoring the capacity which had existed prior to the reductions imposed by the Department for Transport in December 2006.

The route has tremendous potential for growth because it links major centres of population and tourism such as Cardiff, Bristol, Bath, Salisbury and Southampton. Whilst the additional sets will provide much needed extra seating capacity in the Bristol- Bath- Westbury corridor, they will do likewise between Cardiff, Newport and Bristol. It is well known that many people in South Wales like to go shopping in Bath, where the station is convenient for the city centre. Likewise many people from the West of England use the train to Cardiff Central for shopping or visiting the Millennium Stadium. People living near Severn Tunnel Junction station, which serves a number of commuter villages, will benefit whether they travel to Cardiff, Newport, Bristol or Bath.

My organisation sees Cardiff- Portsmouth as a priority for some of the 1,300 new carriages which DfT has promised to introduce by 2014. Demand for travel on this service is almost certain to increase substantially because of growing road congestion. All the principal stations on the route are junctions with other main lines, for example at Newport with Cardiff- Manchester / North Wales, which in this instance provides an easier interchange than at Birmingham New Street. The Assembly Governmentís loan of five sets to FGW is a greatly appreciated by people who believe in a growing railway.

 

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside.

 

 


Sent to Western Daily Press

 

Press Release 27 March 2008

Contact: Severnside Branch Secretary, Tel. 01452 501986.

Railfuture calls for an Integrated Transport Authority for Greater Bristol

Railfuture Severnside believes there is an urgent need for an Integrated Transport Authority to expand rail and bus services in the Greater Bristol area, because

1. Bristol is the largest urban area in the UK outside London not to have a Passenger Transport Authority on the lines of those which were set up under the 1968 Transport Act in the seven largest regional conurbations (Note (a).

2. These bodies have dramatically improved the level and quality of public transport in their areas, including bus / rail interchanges, light rail networks, new and reopened lines and stations on the national rail system and competitive local fares.

3. The Bristol area has serious road congestion which is estimated to cost the local economy £1 million per week (Note (b). Many peak hour train services are badly overcrowded. The four local authorities of the West of England Partnership need powers and funding to develop local bus and rail networks to the standard achieved by Transport for London and the seven regional Passenger Transport Authorities.

4. Rail franchises which include PTA areas have been taken account of the aspirations of the local Passenger Transport Executive (PTE). If there had been a similar Transport Authority for Greater Bristol when the Greater Western franchise was devised, it is unlikely that the cuts imposed on the December 2006 FGW Timetable would have taken place. Even without these cuts, the Bristol area has a great deal of catching up to do because of line and station closures in the 1960s.

Notes

(a) The seven PTAs are West Midlands, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear and Strathclyde.

(b) Estimated by local businesses in evidence to Bristol Local Transport Plan Update, 2002.

 


Press release 2 February 2008

to Bath Chronicle

 

Railfuture calls for expansion of West rail network to combat overcrowding

Railfuture Severnside proposes the following strategy to give rail passengers in the West of England a better deal:

1. More train capacity is needed particularly during the peak hours on routes radiating from Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa. If necessary, suitable rolling stock currently in store at Long Marston, Warwickshire should be utilised.

2. The announcement by Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly that 52 extra carriages will be provided for First Great Western is a step in the right direction but is not enough to keep pace with demand. The Governmentís 2007 White Paper on the railways identified Bristol as having experienced a 75 % increase in rail passenger journeys between 1995 /96 and 2004 /05 *.

3. In particular, additional rolling stock should be deployed on the Cardiff- Bristol- Bath- South Coast route which has experienced some of the worst overcrowding. Instead of returning its five car Adelante trains to the rolling stock leasing company, First Great Western should use them on this route.

4. More of the long distance trains should call at Keynsham, which could be developed as a railhead for North East Somerset and South East Bristol.

5. Reinstatement of the Bristol- Oxford service, which the Government withdrew in 2003, would provide more seating capacity and make it easier to reopen stations at Corsham and Saltford.

Notes

* Delivering a Sustainable Railway, White Paper CM 7176, July 2007, Fig. 5.2. This shows a comparison of the growth in rail journeys in 13 provincial cities, with Bristol recording the highest percentage increase.

Ends


 

Press release, 30 January 2008

to Bristol Evening Post

Railfuture calls for enhancement of West rail network to combat overcrowding

 

Railfuture Severnside proposes the following strategy to give rail passengers in the West of England a better deal:

1. More train capacity is needed particularly during the peak hours on routes radiating from Bristol Temple Meads. If necessary, suitable rolling stock currently in store at Long Marston, Warwickshire should be utilised.

2. The Bristol area must be a priority for receiving some of the 1,300 new carriages which the Government intends to build between now and 2014. This is because the Governmentís 2007 White Paper on the railways identified Bristol as having experienced a 75 % increase in rail passenger journeys between 1995 /96 and 2004 /05 (Note a).

3. In particular, additional rolling stock should be deployed on the Cardiff- Bristol- Bath- South Coast route which has experienced some of the worst overcrowding but which has tremendous potential for growth.

4. More of the long distance trains should call at stations such as Keynsham, which could be developed as a railhead for North East Somerset and South East Bristol.

5. The congested section of line between Lawrence Hill and Filton Abbey Wood should be restored from two to at least three tracks. This had been four tracks until short-sighted economies were made in the 1980s (Note b).

Notes

(a) Delivering a Sustainable Railway, White Paper CM 7176, July 2007, Fig. 5.2. This shows a comparison of the growth in rail journeys in 13 provincial cities, with Bristol recording the highest percentage increase.

(b) Two of the tracks were removed to save maintenance on half of a bridge at Stapleton Road.

Ends

 


Letter to The Editor, Western Daily Press BRISTOL 22 February 2008

Railfuture Severnside supports the campaign by Portishead Railway Group and Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways to reopen passenger services on the Portishead line. The town has grown very considerably since it lost its station in 1964, when the roads were less busy and there were few concerns about the environmental effects of road traffic growth.

The A369 is narrow and winding with little scope for bus lanes. A regular train service would link in with Bristolís local and long distance train services, which are now more frequent than when passenger trains last ran to Portishead. A reopened railway would therefore be building on a stronger base than had existed in 1964.

The greater part of the work needed to reinstate a passenger service has already been done. The junction at Pill with the Portbury freight line already exists. Resignalling the route for passenger trains and a passing loop at Pill would be relatively minor works by comparison with projects undertaken in recent years in Wales and Scotland, where a number of lines have been or are being reopened.

Rail schemes in the English regions need to be assessed in the same way as those in Scotland and Wales. Benefits such as less congested roads and cleaner air should be taken into account. The remarkable growth in rail travel in Bristol (75 % in 10 years according to the Governmentís recent White Paper) suggests that a revived train service from Portishead would be very successful. It is exactly what is needed if people are to be persuaded to leave their cars at home.

Yours sincerely,

Hon. Secretary

Railfuture Severnside

Notes to paragraph 3: There is an existing passing loop on the branch between Parson Street Junction and Ashton Junction. There is a direct connection from the branch to the Up Relief line at Parson Street. If the Up Relief Line were made bidirectional, passenger trains could run between Bristol Temple Meads and Portishead without conflicting with longer distance trains.