Major transport scheme to seek Government approval


A nationally significant scheme to re-open the Portishead to Bristol railway line is set to be submitted to the Government at the end of September.

North Somerset Council is working towards submitting a Development Consent Order (DCO) application in the autumn to the Planning Inspectorate for the £116m MetroWest Phase 1 scheme.

The DCO application 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.

Relaunching train services from Portishead with new stations at Portishead and Pill is a key part of the MetroWest programme of transport improvements across the region being led by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and North Somerset Council.

The council is in the final stages of engaging with statutory bodies on the environmental and flood risk impacts of the scheme which need to be worked through before the DCO application can be submitted. These discussions have meant revisiting the track designs and providing flood compensation areas to counter any impacts from possible flooding. Further work is also required to take into account advice received on the effects of the scheme on air quality which need to be modelled and then reflected in a number of the DCO application documents.

Leader of North Somerset Council Cllr Donald Davies said the council was committed to investing in local infrastructure: “The Portishead line is a nationally significant project that will deliver wide ranging environmental and economic benefits to our region.

“Once completed, Metro West Phase 1 will connect an additional 50,000 residents directly to the national rail network and will improve the level of service for a further 180,000 residents on the Severn Beach and Bath corridors.

“We want to ensure that the DCO application is as strong as possible and we need to be meticulous with regards to the process. By addressing these points now, we will save time within the overall programme, and a submission in September should not impact on the 2023 opening date.”

West of England Mayor, Tim Bowles, said: “This is an important milestone in the MetroWest project, which will improve rail services for people living across the region. I want the West of England to have the rail network it deserves to help reduce congestion, improve air quality and keep people moving.”

Once the application is registered by the Planning Inspectorate, 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 Portishead to Bristol line in December 2021 and take around two years to complete.