Severnside Branch


The Severnside branch covers Gloucestershire, Greater Bristol, Somerset, North Wiltshire.

Branch Meetings

Meetings have been provisionally agreed for 2019 as follows (dates and venues will be confirmed as soon as possible):

Branch AGM, April, Dilton Marsh or Warminster.

July, Patchway or on the Severn Beach line.

October, Stonehouse.

Joint meetings with adjacent Branches will be considered, eg with Wales Branch to discuss the SEWWEG proposal for new stations serving Aztec West and Pilning. We would also welcome suggestions for an informal summer meeting, eg at the Strawberry Line café, Yatton.”

The Branch AGM was held at Bridgwater on 14 April 2018. View or download the minutes.

On Saturday 18 November 2017 at the branch meeting in Bath, Graham Ellis gave an update on TransWilts Community Rail Partnership activities - click HERE to see his presentation. The meeting also allocated grants to local campaigns.

Severnside Newsletters

A list of Railfuture Severnside newsletters can be found on our branch dashboard.

Railfuture Conference, “Rail Resurgence in the West of England”

Railfuture held a major conference in Bristol on Saturday 7 November 2015 with speakers from Great Western Railway, First Bus (on transport integration), the West of England Partnership and local campaigners. Click to view or download the full report.

Some recent campaign successes

Great Western Main Line electrification. The Paddington- South Wales main line was electrified through to Bristol Parkway in October 2018. Bi-modal InterCity Express trains (IETs) are already operating on all principal InterCity routes from Paddington. We continue to press for completion of the deferred electrification to Bath and Bristol Temple Meads.

Filton Bank quadrupling nears completion. Railfuture and Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways have campaigned for years to get four tracks reinstated between Dr. Day’s Junction and Filton Abbey Wood, part of the main line from South West England to Birmingham and South Wales. The 3 ½ mile section was reduced to two tracks in 1984 and has become a serious bottleneck as Cross Country, regional and local train services have increased in frequency. Four tracking is essential for the Metro West project to expand Bristol’s rail network. Both this and the Kemble-Swindon upgrade will give the West’s rail system greater operational flexibility. Work is well advanced and expected to be completed in December 2018.

Tytherington freight branch reopened. The branch line from Yate reopened for quarry traffic in September 2018. This vindicates our letters to the Department for Transport, Network Rail and South Gloucestershire Council in 2013 asking for the track to be retained for future use, including extension of MetroWest passenger services to Thornbury.

Yeovil's two railways connected. For the first time since 1968, there are now regular train services linking Yeovil Junction station (on the Exeter-Waterloo line) with Yeovil Pen Mill station (on the Bristol-Weymouth route). Although initially operating only on Monday to Friday afternoons and evenings, the new services introduced by South West Trains on 14 December 2015 represent another milestone towards a more joined up railway. They also give Frome another direct train to London, while Bruton gets its first through service to the capital since the early 1960s. We shall be pressing for the new services to be extended to mornings and weekends also.

Redoubling of the main line between Kemble and Swindon was completed in August 2014, removing a major bottleneck from Gloucestershire’s main rail artery to London and October. The scheme will allow an hourly service between Paddington, Gloucester and Cheltenham when the full fleet of bi-modal IETs become available.

When the scheme was turned down by the Office of Rail Regulation in 2008, we wrote to local papers, saying “the fight must go on. The route is of immense strategic importance in the national network.” We emphasised that the line was the only realistic alternative route between London and South Wales whenever the Severn Tunnel was closed. It may well be the Government’s decision to electrify from Paddington and Swansea which resulted in the Kemble upgrade getting the go-ahead in 2011. We are pleased that our suggestion for more signalling sections (to allow more trains to run) between Standish Junction and Swindon has been incorporated in the scheme.

Quadrupling of the train service between Swindon and Westbury. From December 2013, the TransWilts train service between Swindon and Westbury via Melksham was increased from two trains each way to eight each way on weekdays and five on Sundays. In 2012 we had written in support of Wiltshire Council’s bid for £4.25 million from the Government’s Local Sustainable Transport Funding, which was subsequently approved and which will underwrite the scheme for three years. According to First Great Western, 183,000 journeys were recorded on the central section of the route (Chippenham-Trowbridge) in the first year, against a forecast of 45,000 in Year 1 and 108,000 in Year 3. View or download Railfuture's response to the TransWilts consultation on designation of Swindon - Westbury as a Community Rail service.

Railfuture has supported TransWilts Community Rail Partnership which has developed and promoted the improvements. We made a grant to Melksham Rail Users Group towards the cost of a booklet promoting the enhanced services.

Station improvements. Our long campaign for direct access from Gloucester station to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital achieved success when a new entrance was opened on Platform 4, close to additional parking we had sought, in September 2018. We welcome the lengthening of platforms in 2018 at stations such as Cheltenham, Freshford, Kemble, Melksham, Stonehouse and Stroud to accommodate longer IET or Turbo trains.”

Current campaign issues

Our campaign to expand rail services in the South West, including more and better rolling stock, was featured in the Western Daily Press on 21 January 2015 - see Rail's forgotten region.
1. Making the most of Great Western electrification
We are concerned at the deferral of electrification to Bath and Bristol Temple Meads. We believe this should be undertaken as soon as the track and signalling upgrades currently in progress in the Bristol area have been completed. We support extension of electrification, eg Newbury-Westbury-Bathampton Junction, Bristol suburban routes, and Bristol-Taunton, as logical next phases after the current scheme is completed.
2. Enhancement of the Greater Bristol rail network
We want to work with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to deliver the revised £ 116m Phase 1 of MetroWest. A 40mph or even 30mph service on the Portishead line would still be faster than road transport and would avoid costly realignment of the track in the Avon Gorge which is said to be needed for a 50mph service. A pragmatic approach is needed to get the line open to passengers, although it is important to avoid a minimalist design of the new stations. Bleak platforms with bus shelters are not the way to make savings.

Our support for a full cross-Bristol service via the Henbury loop was published in the Bristol Post on 14 July 2015. We are pressing neighbouring counties (Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire) to become more involved so that their rail aspirations are integrated with those of WECA. View or download Railfuture's response to the Henbury Station consultation, and view or download Railfuture's response to the West of England Joint Transport Study consultation, and view or download Railfuture's response to the Draft Bristol Transport Strategy Consultation.

Railfuture Severnside responded as follows on 21 March 2016 to North Somerset Council’s electronic consultation on revised plans for Pill station, which are being proposed because the Council expects to secure land in Station Road:

“Options 2, 3 and 4 are an improvement on the original proposal (Option 1) because they offer a greater variety of parking spaces, helpful to people arriving at the station as car passengers or who are disabled. Option 4 would seem to be the best as it would provide three Disabled spaces and a larger drop-off parking area. The money saved by dispensing with a footbridge (required for Option 1) could be used to improve the station waiting area, eg with better protection from the weather and better information screens.”

3. The extended Great Western Franchise
Railfuture submitted a unified response from seven Branches and two of its specialist groups to GW Franchise Consultations in 2012, 2014 and 2018.

Railfuture calls for train services to be specified on the basis of growth in passenger numbers and the need for upgraded facilities at stations. We strongly support retention of through regional services such as Cardiff-Portsmouth and Great Malvern-Brighton. We recognise that main lines such as London-Penzance serve locations with differing aspirations for their train services and press for two or three tiers of service, ie fast, semi-fast and all-stations trains where appropriate.

We consider that GW main line electrification and Metro West Phase 1 should be completed before another competition is held for the franchise.

4. New rail services
We will support local authorities working to introduce regular daily passenger services over the West Somerset Railway between Minehead and the national rail network at Taunton. View or download Railfuture's response to the WSR Corporate Plan 2014-2023. We have briefed the promoters of a plan to reopen Cheltenham-Stratford. Our response to the Draft Somerset Transport Strategy also supports reopening of stations at Langport and Wellington; and the Radstock- Frome line.

5. Stonehouse Bristol Road
Reopening of this station on the Bristol-Birmingham main line would transform travel between the Stroud valley and the Bristol area, which currently involves either convoluted rail journeys or going at least part of the way by road. Extension of MetroWest to Gloucester could serve the station along with other new ones at Charfield and Hunts Grove, for which favourable business cases were produced in a 2017 study for Gloucestershire County Council.

6. A better Cross Country rail network
Severnside Branch contributed to the unified Railfuture response to the DfT Cross Country Franchise Consultation in Summer 2018. The response called for improved XC services, including at Ashchurch, Gloucester and Weston-Super-Mare; reinstatement of some XC stops at Bridgwater; and conversion of the Cardiff-Nottingham service to Cardiff-York to improve connectivity between South Wales, Gloucester, Yorkshire and the North East. Unfortunately the Government shelved the Consultation pending a review of the structure of the rail industry. We will continue to liaise with other Railfuture branches to press for improvements.

Consultation responses

Click view or download for Railfuture's response to the draft Bristol Transport Strategy consultation.

Severnside branch responded in August and September 2018 to consultations by Somerset County Council.
Click view or download for the Draft Taunton Transport Strategy consultation.
Click view or download for the Draft Passenger Transport Strategy consultation.

Click view or download to see Railfuture Severnside's response in April 2018 to the Cheltenham Local Plan consultation.

We made the following comments to the West of England Combined Authority Consultation, prior to the formation of WECA in 2017:
Click view or download for the Joint Transport Study.
Click view or download for the Joint Spatial Plan.

Severnside branch wrote to Network Rail in September 2016 about the proposed closure of the down platform at Pilning, requesting that nothing be done to prevent its reinstatement in future, which will be necessary in the event of housing development around Bristol extending to there.

In our September 2016 response to the Kings Quarter consultation by Gloucester City Council, Severnside branch commented on connectivity between Gloucester railway station and the city centre. View or download our response.

The main points made in the Railfuture response to the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority Consultation on 15 August 2016 were:
We agree that 'a Combined Authority would enable longer-term planning and allow for more ambitious schemes through guaranteed funding each year; would support the introduction of smart and integrated ticketing; and would integrate public road and rail transport across the region to speed up and reduce the environmental impact of longer journeys.’

Our additional comments under the Transport heading were:
  1. A Combined Authority would make it easier to set up an Integrated Transport Authority.
  2. The Combined Authority needs terms of reference and objectives including promotion of public transport and reducing car dependency, otherwise it could just become a means of building more roads.
  3. It needs joined up thinking to prevent disposal of land which could be used to reopen lines and stations, or provide additional car parking at stations. Land sold off at Severn Beach should have been retained for car parking.
  4. It needs to liaise with North Somerset Council and adjoining counties (Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire) to ensure that improved rail services are not confined to the CA area, eg services planned to turn round at Bathampton should extend into Wiltshire.
Under the heading of Housing, our additional comment was that the CA could reduce car dependency by designating new housing areas where they can be served directly or indirectly by rail.

Severnside rail user groups

Rail user groups in Severnside are shown on Railfuture's Regional List of RUGs which can be viewed or downloaded in PDF format HERE.

Contact Nigel Bray, Railfuture Severnside, 23 James Way, Hucclecote, Gloucester GL3 3TE. Tel. 01452 615619 or 07817 367065, email nigel.bray2 at railfuture.org.uk.

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