The project, which will connect 50,000 residents to the rail network by reopening the line closed in 1964, forms part of the MetroWest programme. It is the first passenger railway scheme in the country that will re-open a branch line, to achieve consent via a Development Consent Order (DCO).
The DCO includes planning consent, environmental consent and the compulsory acquisition of land and is required before nationally significant infrastructure projects can be built. The achievement of this major milestone means the project can now move forward towards the delivery phase.
Councillor Steve Bridger, Leader of North Somerset Council and Executive Member for Major Projects, said: “Today’s announcement is the result of over 3 years hard work from our officers and delivery partners, including Womble Bond Dickinson, Ardent, Jacobs and Network Rail. I would like to thank everyone who has put in a tremendous effort to secure the DCO.
“The local population has quadrupled since the original Portishead rail line closed almost 60 years ago. In reopening this route and stations at Portishead and Pill, we can better connect our communities and businesses to the opportunities offered by continued growth across our region, both now and in the future.
“With expected journeys of just 23 minutes, the reopened line would also provide a reliable alternative to the A369/M5 Junction 19, unlocking new ways for people to get around more sustainably as we all do our bit to reach Net Zero.
“As a scheme of vital importance, North Somerset Council and West of England Combined Authority are committed to continuing the work needed to finally make Portishead rail a reality, rising to tackle national challenges where necessary, with an aim of starting construction in 2024.”
Francis McGarry, Network Rail Wales & Western investment director, said: “We warmly welcome the approval of a Development Consent Order which is an important milestone in the reopening of the Portishead line.
“This railway line has been long awaited, and we look forward to working with our partners to deliver this major scheme which will play a significant role in supporting sustainable travel in and around Bristol.”
The DCO decision follows an agreement between North Somerset, the Combined Authority and the Department for Transport to collectively pledge £35.58m in additional funding to the project. The additional funding and the start of construction remains subject to a decision on the project’s Full Business Case in 2024.
Over the next 18 months the project will complete its detailed design, undertake ecology enabling works and, finally, submit its Full Business Case to funding decision makers (the Department for Transport, the Combined Authority and North Somerset Council).