MetroWest: slow progress

Portway P&R, from M5 bridge, 27th October 2022

In FoSBR’s Autumn 2022 newsletter , FoSBR member John Walker wrote a “Tale of two metros” comparing the Devon Metro with the Bristol area’s MetroWest project.  He made the point that the Devon Metro has raced ahead, whilst MetroWest plods forward making slow progress. 

MetroWest continues to plod, and since September there have been updates in project timelines for new stations.

New stations around Exeter

  • Newcourt – on the Avocet Line which opened in 2015
  • Cranbrook – on the east edge of Exeter on the Exeter-Waterloo line (“The Mule”) in 2015
  • Okehampton –  on the Dartmoor Line was reopened to regular 7 days a week service in November 2021. After 1 year of opening over 150,000 journeys were made to/from Okehampton against a forecast of 55,000.
  • Marsh Barton – on the Great Western Main Line on the south edge of Exeter is currently under construction, opening 2023
  • Torbay Gateway station, at Edginswell, is due to start construction 2023, opening 2024

Other potential station re-openings in Devon and South Somerset, in some cases with early work funded by Restoring Your Railway (RyR):

  • Wellington (Somerset) – RyR Ideas Fund 1, proceeding to PACE 1, then Full Business Case by end-2023
  • Cullompton – RyR Ideas Fund 1, proceeding to PACE 1, then Full Business Case by end-2023
  • Tavistock (via Bere Alston to Plymouth) – RyR Ideas Fund 3, Strategic Outline Business Case submitted
  • Somerton and Langport (Somerset), RyR Ideas Fund 2, Strategic Outline Business Case submitted
  • Tavistock to Okehampton – unsuccessful in RyR Ideas Fund
  • Okehampton Parkway – not currently funded

New stations around Bristol

There have multiple slippages on dates around MetroWest station construction. WECA, the West of England Combined Authority, currently aspires to deliver 7 stations within 7 years:

  • Portway Park and Ride, on the Severn Beach line, should open late 2022. The station is largely constructed (see main photo) and a test train is due to call soon as a “Platform Train Interface” exercise. Edit: as of early November, the GWR website says the station is due to open in early 2023.”
  • Ashley Down – prior planning approval has been granted here, Full Business Case is due to be submitted to WECA in January 2023, site works are due to start in 2023 for opening 2024
  • Charfield – a planning application for Charfield station was submitted in September 2022, with a decision deadline of 30th December 2022 – link here , construction would commence in 2023 for opening 2024
  • Henburyplanning application due early 2023, full business case due 2024, construction due 2025
  • North Filton – planning application submitted 2021 – link here
  • Portishead – as reported in our Autumn 2022 newsletter, additional funding commitments and reductions in scope have kept the Portishead project alive. The DfT funding will only be released once the DfT grants the scheme Full Business Case Approval and approves the Development Consent Order, earliest 2023.  It is likely that the line opening will not be delivered until 2026 at the earliest.  Granting of outline permission for the Longmoor Village development in Ashton Vale has complicated the potential for upgrading the Portishead service to half-hourly, as that will require closure of the level crossing adjacent to Winterstoke Road  – background here
  • Pill – see Portishead

Other potential station re-openings in the area, with in some cases early work funded by Restoring Your Railway (RyR):

  • St Annes Park – RyR Ideas Fund 2, Strategic Outline Business Case submitted December 2021
  • Stroud Bristol Road (Gloucestershire) – RyR Ideas Fund 3, Strategic Outline Business Case in progress
  • Corsham (Wiltshire) – RyR Ideas Fund 3, Strategic Outline Business Case due to be submitted by September 2022
  • Devizes Parkway/Lydeway (Wiltshire) – RyR Ideas Fund 1, Strategic Outline Business Case submitted November 2021, further study due by March 2023
  • Gravity/Puriton (Somerset) – unsuccessful in RYR Ideas Fund, but deemed development of national significance needing passenger and freight connectivity
  • Saltford – unsuccessful in RyR Ideas Fund, but is mentioned in WECA’s Strategic Rail Investment Plan
  • Ashton Gate – not currently funded but is mentioned in WECA’s Strategic Rail Investment Plan
  • FoSBR’s Plan for Rail also includes several other new stations such as Constable Road (Lockleaze), Coalpit Heath and a bi-directional Pilning

New stations are harder to deliver within budget during this time of cost inflation.  WECA have already indicated how MetroWest stations will be standardised to a minimal design to achieve cost savings.   

For other potential station re-openings, the Restoring your Railway fund has been a useful boost, although not all outline business cases will progress to full funding.  RyR is no longer accepting new proposals.  It remains to be seen what the current political climate means for the funding of rail infrastructure.