The long-awaited reopening of the train line between Bristol and Portishead has taken another important step forwards after ministers gave the green light for works to get underway (today 15 November.)
Planning permission and necessary environmental consents have been granted by the approval of a Development Consent Order.
This follows the additional funding agreed in July by the West of England Combined Authority, led by Metro Mayor Dan Norris, and North Somerset Council for the reopening and makeover.
Metro Mayor Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority, said: “The last time you could catch a train along this line was before a man walked on the moon and the Beatles were taking America by storm. So I’m pleased to have passed another important milestone. This is a project long in the making and undoubted there will be more bumps in the road. However, this important thumbs up keeps us firmly on the right track, and means the hard work of physically bringing this rail line back to life can begin. This is a really important project that will see communities in south Bristol and across our city reconnected to Portishead and help in our vital quest for net-zero.”
Cllr Steve Bridger, who leads North Somerset Council 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 the West of England Combined Authority, North Somerset Council and the Department for Transport in the summer to plug a cash hole for the project by collectively pledging £35.5m in additional funding to the project.