The Future of Bristol Train Travel

Imagine the scene in four years time.  You’ve been on the train from London for the last one hour and twenty five minutes.  The journey has been smooth and quiet, on one of the new inter-city trains, powered by electric.  As the train approaches Bristol Temple Meads you see to your left a boat docking by the wharf next to the hotch potch of different building designs that make up Bristol Media Village.  Beyond looms the roofline of the recently opened arena.

The train pulls into the grand Passenger Shed, the original terminus of Brunel’s trains in 1841. Your fellow passengers have been chatting about their options for reaching their final destination.  A lawyer will walk to her office in Queen Square.  A tourist  is intending to pick up a Brompton and cycle to the SS Great Britain.  A group of students will get the bus to the Triangle.  One of them prefers to get a taxi from the new rank on Isambard Walk, next to the new terminus.  A family plan to catch the harbour ferry in order to visit M Shed.

And you?  You now have a choice of how to get home to St Andrews on the North Bristol Circle Line.  Your nearest station is Ashley Down. The train via Horfield leaves in ten minutes.  The one via Clifton leaves 5 minutes sooner and you could catch that…but it means walking up the hill from Montpelier.  Besides, a wait gives you more time to visit the station shops.  You then join the rowdy crowd on the anti-clockwise train who are off to watch some Twenty Twenty cricket at the revamped County Ground.

Tomorrow you will choose to trundle your suitcase down to Montpelier in order to catch the Portishead train.  You’ll be getting off at Portbury to be met by the luxury coach that will take you to the quayside where the Queen Mary is waiting to take you and hundreds of other Bristolians on the maiden voyage to New York.

Fanciful stuff?  Not really.  There’s a consensus, at least among Bristol’s MPs, Mayor and councillors, that rail has a great future.  The electrification of the main line was agreed by the Coalition in 2011. The first gantries are already going up around Reading.  Track capacity between Temple Meads and Parkway is to be increased, enabling the re-opening of stations at Ashley Hill (or Ashley Down as it should really be called) and Horfield.  Network Rail is planning to take over the operation of Temple Meads and has ambitious plans for a complete revamp of the station experience.

Last Saturday I joined Charlotte Leslie MP, First Great Western managers and a great crowd of Bristol transport campaigners for a trip up Filton Bank, around the “Henbury Loop”, up to Severn Beach and back down the existing branch line via Clifton to Temple Meads.  Much of the track infrastructure for new passenger services is already in place. The Lib Dem administration of Bristol City Council successfully launched the concept of a Bristol Metro last year, endorsed by neighbouring authorities and transport campaigners. Investment will be needed in signalling and new stations.  But above all we need all the stakeholders to get their ducks in a row and agree a rapid timetable for bringing this vision into reality.

And a liner to New York? Why not?  Brunel would approve.

To add your voice to my campaign to get a new station at Ashley Down, go here

To support Charlotte Leslie’s campaign for the line through Henbury, go here

Added 13 Sept 2013 – Cllr Sean Emmett has a petition to support the reopening of a station for Lockleaze and  Horfield

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