Decision over Portishead to Bristol rail link delayed AGAIN

Abandoned Portishead rail line.

The plans for a Portishead-Bristol rail link have been long delayed - Credit: Barry Cash

A decision over a £116 million plan to open a rail link between Portishead, Bristol and Bath has been delayed AGAIN.

The Department for Transport (DfT) yesterday announced a further delay to consent for construction of the MetroWest Phase 1 scheme, which would see the Portishead line re-opened.

A Development Consent Order (DCO) application for the scheme – which would re-open the Portishead to Bristol rail line and enhance local passenger services on the Severn Beach and Westbury/Bath to Bristol lines - was first submitted to the DfT in November 2019.

The application process also included an examination in public which took six months and ended in April last year. 

Yesterday's announcement from the DfT extends the deadline for a decision on the DCO to February 19, 2023.

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Councillor Don Davies, leader of North Somerset Council, said: "We are incredibly disappointed to hear that there will be a further delay in agreeing the DCO, which will have continued cost implications for the scheme.

"Despite these delays, the Portishead line remains a key scheme putting jobs and infrastructure into the heart of our economic growth strategy, creating sustainable travel links around the area.

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"The financial challenges for the project as a result of increased costs from the pandemic and construction and energy inflation are very significant, in addition to further costs of delay posed by (the) announcement. 

"The DfT are key funding partners, alongside the West of England Combined Authority and North Somerset Council. By not committing any further funding, they are undermining our ability to deliver the project. 

"We will continue to lobby government for additional funding to address the shortfall."

In December last year North Somerset MP, Dr Liam Fox, said previous concerns over challenges to the scheme by 'mainstream' environmental groups were unfounded

And Extinction Rebellion groups in the area said they too supported the move.