Tram sys­tem could cut cost and keep rail plan on track

Bristol Post - - NEWS - Kate WIL­SON Lo­cal democ­racy re­porter kate.wil­son@reach­plc.com

This is a re­ally pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion to de­liver a trans­port net­work fit for the fu­ture Metro Mayor Tim Bowles

❝ We are all pur­su­ing the same ob­jec­tive for MetroWest in­clud­ing the vi­tal Por­tishead line Coun­cil leader Nigel Ash­ton

ATRAM sys­tem could be in­tro­duced on the Por­tishead rail­way line in the hopes that it would re­duce the cost of re­open­ing the much sought-af­ter pas­sen­ger route.

West of Eng­land Mayor Tim Bowles said the idea was dis­cussed dur­ing a meet­ing with Trans­port Sec­re­tary Chris Grayling about plans to im­prove rail ser­vices across the re­gion.

Mr Bowles, who rep­re­sents the West of Eng­land Com­bined Author­ity (Weca), said dur­ing the meet­ing it was agreed to “widen the scope” of the work al­ready un­der­way to re-open the Por­tishead line.

The scheme, of­fi­cially called MetroWest phase one, has been plagued with un­cer­tainty af­ter fail­ing to make lit­tle progress in the past 10 years.

One of the big prob­lems is the route needs ma­jor in­vest­ment to re-lay sec­tions of track which have been ripped up.

A vi­able shared timetable will also need to be cre­ated with the freight com­pa­nies which use part of the line.

And of course there is the ever in­creas­ing cost of the project - which has so far only been partly funded.

Around £70mil­lion has al­ready been se­cured for the project from var­i­ous coun­cils and fund­ing bod­ies.

But there is still £47mil­lion left to find and a North Som­er­set Coun­cil bid for gov­ern­ment fund­ing was re­jected in May.

But Mr Bowles has said that he hoped in­clud­ing a light-rail op­tion - which is a pas­sen­ger train pow­ered by over­head elec­tri­cal wires such as a tram - would re­duce the cost of re­open­ing the line.

He said that light rail could also re­sult in “state-of-the-art trains op­er­at­ing with­out the need for heavy rail in­fras­truc­ture”.

And that the pos­si­bil­ity of tram trains sim­i­lar to those used in other ma­jor cities across the UK would also be ex­plored.

Dur­ing his meet­ing with the Sec­re­tary of State Mr Bowles said his “am­bi­tious plans” for rail ser­vices in the re­gion also in­cluded im­prov­ing the Sev­ern Beach line to pro­vide di­rect ser­vices to Bath and West­bury.

As well as re-open­ing Hen­bury sta­tion and pro­vid­ing more fre­quent ser­vices to Yate.

Weca has said that it is es­ti­mated this could gen­er­ate 1.7 mil­lion new rail pas­sen­gers and give 80,000 more peo­ple ac­cess to train ser­vices.

Mr Bowles said: “I want the West of Eng­land to have the rail net­work it de­serves to help re­duce con­ges­tion, im­prove air qual­ity and keep peo­ple mov­ing.

“This is a re­ally pos­i­tive step in the right di­rec­tion to de­liver a trans­port net­work fit for the fu­ture.

“We have to be am­bi­tious and work at re­gional level to give peo­ple more op­tions and en­cour­age them to leave their cars at home.”

Sup­port for the re-open­ing of the Por­tishead line has also been wel­comed by North Som­er­set Coun­cil leader Nigel Ash­ton.

Mr Ash­ton said: “I too have had meet­ings with Mr Grayling. We are all pur­su­ing the same ob­jec­tive for MetroWest in­clud­ing the vi­tal Por­tishead line which will ben­e­fit not only the res­i­dents of North Som­er­set but the whole re­gion.

“Chris Grayling is fully sup­port­ive and we are de­lighted that the West of Eng­land con­tin­ues to sup­port the project.”

Mean­while Mr Grayling said he looked for­ward to see­ing the re­sult of work by Weca and North Som­er­set Coun­cil to de­liver “mod­ern, state-ofthe-art trans­port so­lu­tions for the re­gion”.

Sec­tion of the Por­tisheadto-Bris­tol rail­way line

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