The Anonymous Widower

Disappointing Bristol

On Thursday last week, I went to Bristol with the aim of perhaps doing a bit of a wander around some of the local railways in the area.

I know the centre of Bristol quite well and I’ve visited the usual attractions and walked along the Avon. After a previous visit, I wrote Walking Around Bristol. I’ve have also visited the SS Great Britain a couple of times, but it is not an attraction, that you can walk past and enjoy, like say HMS Belfast or the Cutty Sark in London. After a previous visit, I wrote The Disappointing SS Great Britain.

I had thought, that I might go to Severn Beach, as I’d read that the trip is one of the most scenic of railways.

But trains were only every two hours and I’d just missed one. How visitor-friendly is that? Anybody going on the off-chance would love to be stuck at Bristol Temple Meads station for two hours.

Services like those to Severn Beach should be at least twice an hour and preferably four times to attract passengers to the route.

I couldn’t even buy any gluten-free food, as the only place to buy anything was WH Smith. The nearest Marks was in the Centre. As there are no shops at Paddington at the moment due to rebuilding, I was starting to get hungry.

It’s also quite a boring and long walk between Bristol Temple Meads station and the City Centre. So I wondered if there was a local bus that could be used to get to Cabot Circus, where I might have some lunch. But there was no information, that I could find.

So, I did what my family always does at times like this. I did a runner! In this case to Bath!

Bristol may be getting new electric trains all the way to London, but they need to think seriously about providing a more welcoming experience for visitors.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend to anybody going to Bristol by train for a day out! Portsmouth, Liverpool, Cardiff and even Birmingham are so much better.

If Bristol was in Europe or had a bit more ambition, which I’ve always felt the city lacks, it would have a tram system.

This Google Map shows the City Centre.

Bristol City Centre

Bristol City Centre

Bristol Temple Meads station is in the middle at the bottom. Only one other station is shown on the map and that is Lawrence Hill station in the North-Eastern corner of the map.  Wikipedia describes the station as having minimal facilities. This extract from Wikipedia, describes the services at the station.

As of the December 2013 timetable, Monday to Friday, three trains every two hours run along the Severn Beach Line from Bristol Temple Meads to Avonmouth via Clifton Down, with one extended to St Andrew’s Road and Severn Beach. Most services start at Bristol, but one evening service to Avonmouth begins at Weston-super-Mare. On Saturdays only two trains per hour each direction call. Sunday sees an hourly service to and from Bristol, with only two services extending to Severn Beach, except during the May–September timetable period when all services are extended. The first and last Sunday trains towards Bristol are extended to Taunton via Weston-super-Mare, and there are similar workings in the other direction.

No wonder, the station only has minimal facilities, that level of service will struggle to attract the proverbial one man and his dog.

If as I believe there should be at least a two trains per hour service on local lines, then if the Severn Beach Line and the service to Avonmouth had this frequency, then there would be four trains per hour service across the eastern side of the city centre.

Bristol is trying to organise MetroWest, but compared to say Cardiff, Liverpool and other large cities, it has a distinct lack of rail lines and stations in or near the City Centre.

Talk is of a start in 2019, but I doubt, anything will start until the late 2020s, at the earliest.

In 2014 I wrote Is Bristol Left Behind? After my visit on Thursday, I can’t help feeling that the City is the most disappointing one in England.

May 2, 2016 - Posted by | Food, Transport, Uncategorized | , ,


  1. I’m so pleased you wrote this post – I used to commute to Bath from Bristol and also live along the Severn Beach line; the train network in Bristol is not up to scratch for such a large city at all, and I’m still surprised at how little is around Temple Meads to give visitors a good first impression; hopefully that will change now that the stadium is being built nearby!

    Comment by Shonette | May 3, 2016 | Reply

    • I’m so pleased you replied so positively. The train station should say to visitors that I am a good place to visit. Temple Meads doesn’t even have a good connection to the City Centre which is miles away. Compare it with

      Liverpool, where you just walk down the hill to one of the largest pedestrianised city centres in the UK.

      Manchester, where you are in a station that is also a meeting place with some nice cafes and bars, with a free shuttle bus to all over the centre.

      Nottingham, where you walk to the tram to go to most of the attractions, including most importantly; the hospital.

      Birmingham, where you are in a massive John Lewis-anchored shopping centre, with trains and trams all over the place.

      Bristol can surely do so much better, or the visitors will go elsewhere.

      Comment by AnonW | May 3, 2016 | Reply

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