‘Inevitable’ delays push MetroWest opening date back to 2024
PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 August 2020 | UPDATED: 07:25 12 August 2020
A delay to the MetroWest scheme will see its opening date pushed back to 2024.
The project, which will reconnect the railway line between Portishead, Pill and Ashton Junction in Bristol, has been pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The impact of Covid-19 has affected the Development Consent Order (DCO) examination process by around four-and-a-half months, which was highlighted at the North Somerset Council strategic planning, economic development and regeneration policy scrutiny panel meeting on July 22.
Portishead Railway Group (PRG) previously advised that the service would be in operation in December 2023, but it has now confirmed the coronavirus pandemic has ‘unavoidably’ pushed its reopening into 2024.
PRG committee member for programme and infrastructure Dave Chillistone said: “There is a delay with the DCO examination process by approximately four months, and MetroWest is currently working out if this translates as a linear four-month delay to the project.
“We are certain that the delay will see the project open in 2024.”
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The Planning Inspectorate approved the DCO to proceed to the examination of the scheme in December 2019, and, under normal circumstances, corresponds to an 18-month wait for a decision on the project by the Secretary of State.
However, the Government says it recognises how important it is to ‘progress the consideration and determination of applications’ during the pandemic, and the Planning Inspectorate and Examining Authority (ExA) are exploring ways to conduct its preliminary meeting – where the ExA considers how the application would be examined.
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This comes after the Planning Inspectorate invited interested parties to take part in a questionnaire, with replies submitted by July 30.
Dave added: “There will be a delay, it would be inevitable, everything has been disrupted by Covid-19.
“The previous programme saw the service reopening in 2023, and even a one-month delay would push the project into 2024, so it’s not as dire as it seems.
“There are around 30,000 people living in Portishead and the railway is necessary and long-overdue.”
Project leaders believe the railway line will play a critical role in North Somerset’s recovery from the pandemic.
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