Tram idea for Portishead a ‘poor substitute to proper rail’
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 October 2018
Trams and light rail are being considered as options to solving Portishead’s long-running railway saga, but the ideas have been slated by North Somerset councillors.
The West of England Combined Authority (WECA) has revealed it is exploring the possibility of a tram service, akin to that of major cities, or light rail could be used to link the town to the centre of Bristol, rather than a traditional heavy rail network.
But the proposal, brought forward by West of England Mayor Tim Bowles, has been criticised by Portishead East Cllr David Pasley – who insisted the town will not settle for ‘second best’.
Portishead’s railway was decommissioned in the 1960s, and there have been growing calls in recent years to restart train services.
The project was gathering pace as part of the MetroWest scheme, but it hit a snag last year when cost estimates skyrocketed after concerns were raised over how to best navigate the Avon Gorge – but the WECA feels it may have found a solution with trams or light rail.
Mr Bowles said: “I want the West of England to have the rail network it deserves.
“I hope including light rail as an option for Portishead will reduce the cost of re-opening the line and also open up other opportunities within the region.”
But Cllr Pasley told the Times a tram or light rail system ‘would be a poor substitute for proper rail’.
He said: “A tram would mean you could only go to one place and get off.
“The whole idea is a bus on rails, but we do not want second best. We deserve the railway we have been promised and Chris Grayling, the transport minister, considers the project absolutely essential.
“I understand Mr Bowles wants to save money but it’s not the right attitude.”
Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, North Somerset’s executive member for transport, believes the mayor is ‘late on the scene’, and the idea has already been assessed by the council.
He said: “We believe heavy rail which allows services to connect and go beyond Bristol Temple Meads still remains the most sustainable and cost-effective option.
“It allows services to go through to Bath or loop to Severn Beach, making best use of the rolling stock and timetable.”