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Delayed Portishead railway line will be ‘worth the wait’

PUBLISHED: 08:18 01 February 2016

An artist's impression of what the new Portishead station will look like.

An artist's impression of what the new Portishead station will look like.

Archant

Delays to the opening of the Portishead rail line should last no more than six months, according to North Somerset Council.

The Times revealed last week that the route, which will connect the town with Bristol and Pill, will not be ready to open by May 2019 as hoped, with a delay of about a year expected.

The council believes the line may be ready by the end of 2019, although project leaders MetroWest said its target date is ‘by mid-2020’.

The latter told the Times that construction challenges and new transport guidelines published have forced the target date back.

The council says building work will start in 2018 – slightly later than the ‘late-2017’ target voiced by its leader Nigel Ashton 10 months ago.

Campaign group Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways has raised fears the delay may mean the line will not be ready until 2021, however MetroWest remains confident the scheme will be delivered by mid-2020.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees said: “I am encouraged about the progress of the project, which we believe is the largest rail scheme in the country being locally funded.

“It is not a simple re-opening project but (it will be) well worth waiting for.

“The new half-hourly service to Portishead will be far better than was ever available in the 1960s, so is not a like for like replacement of previous infrastructure and we need to make sure that the existing freight services to the port are not adversely affected.

“While the project is on track to begin construction in 2018 as planned, we need to co-ordinate the work with the improvements planned by Network Rail to deliver electrification and other enhancements in the Bristol area and as always on projects of this scale and complexity, timescales are kept under review and we continue to explore opportunities to accelerate delivery.”

Outline designs will be ready by April and planning permission from the secretary of state will be sought in the autumn – although it may take 18 months for a decision to be made.

The railway line changes include increasing the speed of the existing freight track and adding a second track to sections of the route to ensure passenger trains can also use the line.

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