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The Future of Bristol Train Travel

July 31, 2013

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 http://www.ashleydownstation.com/

To support Charlotte Leslie’s campaign for the line through Henbury, go here http://www.henburyloop.bristolpetitions.com/

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

http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/view/HorfieldStation

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Gavin Thirlwall permalink
    August 1, 2013 11:07 am

    What about the price though Stephen? A standard peak return to London is already £187, add on four years of above inflation rises and we end up somewhere above £220. Meanwhile FirstGroup continue to reap the profits and new infrastructure (electrification, Reading station upgrade, new Bristol Parkway car park and new trains) is all reliant on taxpayer funding.

    • August 1, 2013 1:04 pm

      Agree with you Gavin. I wish the railways were under state control. The East Coast franchise shows that this can deliver good service at lower cost to the taxpayer.

      • Gavin Thirlwall permalink
        August 14, 2013 7:08 am

        FGW’s franchise ends in October 2013 and if an extension can’t be agreed Directly Operated Railways will take over – the mechanism for re-nationalisation is not only in place, it is the default action. The only way we end up continuing with a privatised system is if the government sign the forms.

  2. Richard Fox permalink
    August 1, 2013 10:37 pm

    The price of tickets on public transport (bus and train) is really high. But … both bus and train are showing increases in numbers of passengers; in particular the outrageous train fares to London are for trains that are completely full most of the time. We all complain about the high price of petrol, the high price of water, the high price of electricity and gas, and so on; and we all keep buying more and more of these things.

  3. Aaron Nandi permalink
    August 9, 2013 10:24 am

    Re cost of train travel – expensive in comparison to what?
    For an executive owing a car less than 3 years old, eg an Audi A6 2 litre SE, cost for attending a 2 hour morning meeting in central London travelling by car will be (admittedly only a very rough estimate) running costs @ £0.50/mile inc fuel £125 (source Fleet News) + £10 CC + £20 parking = £155 total. Rail is still more expensive, but my point is that the cost of car travel is not that much different. Plus the individual in this example gains some 3 hours useable time whilst on the train, easily worth more than £30 (depending on renumeration of course) plus avoiding stress over traffic jams.

  4. E. Firth permalink
    August 9, 2013 11:07 am

    How about much cheaper (ie: subsidised) trains which will encourage the commuter to leave the car at home all together..? Those that remember Ken Livingstone’s 10p bus fare anywhere in London certainly made a real difference to the volume of traffic.
    What is the East coast franchise doing right..?
    Re: the Bristol metro, I would have thought the heaviest volume of traffic happens to and from East Bristol..? Causing extraordinarily heavy jams at both ends of the day.
    This may be fanciful talk, but any chance we can re-open more branch-lines leaving the cycle path running alongside..or is that too radical even for you Stephen..?!

  5. Michael Slater permalink
    August 10, 2013 9:42 am

    A map would help

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