Progress on Portishead rail project as council commits £1.4m to scheme
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 December 2018
The reopening of Portishead's railway is 'moving forwards' after North Somerset Council committed more than £1million to the project.
The authority’s executive committee agreed on December 4 to release £1.4million to pay for the submission of a Development Consent Order (DCO).
The MetroWest project – which is being developed by the council and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has been deemed of national significance by the Government, and will require a DCO before materialising.
Council leader Nigel Ashton insisted the authority is ‘committed’ to reopening the line. He said: “It is down to North Somerset’s determination, supported by WECA, that this project is still moving forward.
“We aim to submit the DCO in April and through our contacts with transport secretary Chris Grayling, the indications are the Government is supportive.
“The Portishead rail scheme is a nationally-significant project which will open up the rail network to thousands of people across the region and will help relieve congestion.
“We are committed to investing in the infrastructure of our area.”
North Somerset says almost £47million in funding needs to be secured for the Portishead line – which was decommissioned in the 1960s – to reopen.
Colin Howells, vice chairman of Portishead Railway Group, welcomed the council’s funding commitment, but said ‘only central Government has the finance available to complete a railway project of this size’.
He told the Times: “MetroWest officers are working tirelessly to find the funding, but it’s unfair of Government to keep raising the hopes of residents with words of support, but no commitment of funding.
“We are now at a critical time in the project, more than half of the funding is in place, and around £14m has already been spent.
“We call on our MP, Dr Liam Fox, to exert any influence he may have with Government to release the funds so this project can be completed as soon as possible.”
In October, West of England mayor Tim Bowles revealed light rail or trams could be a solution to keep costs down while still connecting Portishead to Bristol, but North Somerset councillors slated his proposal.