The Anonymous Widower

Portishead Reopening Finally Approved

The title of this post, is the same as that of a small article in the January 2023 Edition of Modern Railways.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Secretary of State for Transport Mark Harper has approved a Development Consent Order to reopen the railway to Portishead as part of the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest Phase 1B project.

Under the £152 million scheme, the disused railway between Portishead and Pill will be rebuilt, with the Pill to Ashton Junction  freight line upgraded. It joins the Bristol & Exeter route at Parson Street Junction.


  1. MetroWest is going to be Bristol’s Metro.
  2. Portishead station is going to be one of its termini.
  3. It appears that a new station is going to be built at Portishead.
  4. There used to be other stations on the branch.

I have these thoughts.

Portishead Station

In the Wikipedia entry for Portishead station, there is a section called Future, where this is said.

In April 2019 the Department for Transport committed £31.9m to cover the shortfall in finance for MetroWest Phase 1, meaning that funding for the new station and reopened line has now been secured. In November 2019 North Somerset Council submitted a Development Consent Order (DCO) application to the Planning Inspectorate, which seeks powers to build and operate the disused section of railway from Portishead to Pill, gain environmental consent to undertake works to the existing freight railway through the Avon Gorge and obtain powers for the compulsory acquisition of land. The Secretary of State for Transport is expected to make a decision within 18 months. Subject to final business case approval, construction work is expected to start on the line in December 2021 and then take around two years to complete.

The Secretary of State for Transport gave his decision in December 2022, but I would expect two year construction time to hold.

Stations On The Branch

The original branch had five stations; Ashton Gate, Clifton Bridge, Pill, Portbury and Portishead.

How many will be reopened?

In the Wikipedia entry for Ashton Gate station, there is a section called Future, where this is said.

The line through Ashton Gate would be increased to double track. Network Rail stated that it was not feasible to reopen Ashton Gate during the initial stage of the project, but that the scheme will be future-proofed to allow the construction of a station at a later date.

The section also mentions a reopened station at Pill.

The Wikipedia entry for Pill station, there is a section called Future, where this is said.

As part of the works, Pill station will be reopened. Trains both to and from Portishead will use the southern platform, which will be resurfaced and provided with a waiting shelter, lighting, passenger information displays and audible announcements. The northern platform, adjacent to the current single track line to Royal Portbury Dock, will not be reinstated, however the track will be retained for freight trains. The two tracks will have a junction east of the station.

It is expected that reopening the station will result in reduced car usage to and from Pill and the surrounding villages. Most station users will walk to the station, with the next largest share being car drivers and car passengers being dropped off, followed by cyclists and bus users. Some parking restrictions are proposed to prevent rail users parking on the local streets, which are narrow and not suitable for widening.


  1. The station design appears to not need a bridge.
  2. There would be disabled parking and a pick up/drop off point adjacent to the entrance.

I think this station design could be able to handle two trains per hour (tph).

What Will Be The Service?

This paragraph outlines the service.

An hourly service is proposed, with journey times from Portishead to the centre of Bristol expected to be around 22 minutes, which is said to be competitive with roads in the area.

Twenty-two minutes is an interesting time, as it will mean that it should be possible to do the following in an hour.

  • Go from Bristol Temple Meads to Portishead.
  • The driver changes ends and gets ready to return.
  • Go from Portishead to Bristol Temple Meads
  • The driver changes ends and gets ready to go to Portishead again.

If the train can do the full return journey in an hour, it will be able to run the service with a single train.

The Wikipedia entry for Pill station, there is a section called Future, where this is said.

Trains along the reopened line will operate between Portishead and Bristol Temple Meads, with two trains per hour in each direction. Services would call at Pill and Parson Street, with aspirations to also call at Bedminster and a reopened Ashton Gate. Trains could also be extended on to the Severn Beach Line. The trains used will be diesel multiple units, likely three carriages long.


  1. Wikipedia and Modern Railways are giving different frequencies.
  2. Two tph could probably be run by using two trains.

I suspect that the Modern Railways figure is correct, as it is the most recent.

January 2, 2023 - Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. 152m is far too much for this scheme. All the trackbed is there it should have been like Okehampton just a renewal job with modest additional signalling. Good though it is there will be little money left in the kitty for anything else with this and Ashington.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | January 2, 2023 | Reply

    • I have a suspicion that £152 million scheme refers to the West of England Combined Authority’s MetroWest Phase 1B project and that the disused railway between Portishead and Pill will represent just a small portion of that budget. Clearly the total sum is excessive for reinstating such a comparatively short existing right of way. For comparison Ashington is budgeted for £34 million.

      Comment by fammorris | January 2, 2023 | Reply

      • I think you could be right.

        But the web site contains a lot of Yes! Minister language and if you missed Episode 11, you won’t understand some of it!
        I also have a feeling that Network Rail’s delivery of projects have improved lately.

        These are reasons why projects are late or over budget.

        1. Lack of resources.
        2. Tasks missed out of the project.
        3. Bad surveys.
        4. Unexpected mine shafts and other surprises.
        5, Bad Weather

        Someone in Network Rail knows their project management and several projects have been delivered on time and on budget recently.

        I suspect they know, that if they keep this record up, then there’s plenty more to keep them going for a few years yet. I suspect, that even if we have a change of government, Beeching Reversal will continue, given the success of Okehampton.

        I also suspect that if their record is good and they said to their boss, “This set of points here need replacement!”, they’ll get a fair hearing despite the expense.

        Comment by AnonW | January 2, 2023

      • The 34m for Ashington is a down payment as project is quoted as 166m in other documents although getting the detail behind these numbers is never revealed.

        Comment by Nicholas Lewis | January 2, 2023

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: