Severnside Branch


The Severnside branch covers the county of Gloucestershire and the six unitary authorities of Greater Bristol (Bath & NE Somerset, City of Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire), Somerset and Wiltshire.

Branch Meetings

Wednesday, 2nd November 2022 - Railfuture joined forces with West Wilts Rail User Group, meeting at the Bethesda Church Hall, Gloucester Road, Trowbridge, BA14 0AA. (It's just 250 metres from the station; click here to see a map).

Members of Railfuture's Severnside Branch were invited to arrive earlier to attend a short meeting from 18:30 to discuss the future of the branch, following on at 19:00 with tea and coffee before a 19:30 start. Expect to be completed in time to catch the 21:19 northbound or 21:29 southbound trains towards home stations.

Climate change, new rail industry structures, prime minister and King, post Covid-19 recovery, inflation and industrial relations … we are in a changed world in which the government, the rail industry and the rail unions are planning for a potentially very different future. But what consideration for the future? Trowbridge, where we hold our meeting, has lost its through services to London (Waterloo) and Brighton, catering and first class on all trains except the 05:41 departure.

We invited GWR's Customer Experience Manager to set the scene for us on current and future changes, and our campaigning committee members and friends will form a panel at which we'll look forward to where we may be headed, and how best we can promote the passenger in the future of rail in West Wiltshire and the wider Severnside area by partnering with and persuading the key players to provide a positive, reliable, affordable, consistent and sustainable customer service.

Our branch AGM was held from 9-10 am on 16th July 2022, to coincide with the national AGM in Bristol. The venuewas St Michael's Church Centre, five minutes' walk from Bristol Parkway Station.
The previous branch meeting was on 5th March 2022 at Bridgwater Railway Club.
Thanks to Alex Lawrie from Go-op Rail who talked about his plans to run trains from Swindon to Bishops Lydeard.

An earlier meeting was on Saturday 20th November 2021 at Manvers Street Baptist Church. Chris Warren talked about the campaign to reopen Saltford station.
A meeting was held on Wednesday 27th October 2021 in The Tavern Inn, Kemble, close to the station, speakers from Cirencester Community Railway discussed the project to reopen the Kemble-Cirencester line as a light railway with the latest technology. A write up and link to the slide presentation can be found here.
A meeting was held on Wednesday 20th October 2021 in Bethesda Church Hall, Gloucester Road, Trowbridge to discuss how to save the Bristol-Waterloo train service which South Western Railway is proposing to withdraw. You can read a report on the meeting here.
There was an informal branch meeting on 18th September 2021 in Yatton at the Strawberry Line Café at 2pm.

Severnside Newsletters

View the latest branch newsletter, for Spring 2022, HERE.
A list of previous Railfuture Severnside newsletters can be found on our branch dashboard.

Some current campaign issues

New stations
  • Stonehouse Bristol Road - Reopening of this station on the Bristol-Birmingham main line could 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.
  • Charfield - See South Gloucestershire Council; view our responses to their consultations in October 2022 and in January 2022.
  • Chard Parkway - See Everything you need to know - includes other press coverage.

Extending 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. It is scandalous that Bristol is the largest UK city without any electric railways within its boundaries. The five mile section from Bristol Parkway to Temple Meads should be the highest priority because the bridges have been cleared for electrification and Filton Bank four-tracking has been completed. We support extension of electrification, eg Newbury-Westbury-Bathampton Junction, Bristol suburban routes, and Bristol-Taunton, as logical next phases after the deferred sections have been wired.

Enhancement of the Greater Bristol rail network
We welcome the Government's decision to provide £ 32 m of funding required to enable MetroWest Phase 1, which includes reopening the Portishead line, to proceed. We want to work with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and North Somerset Council to deliver the scheme as soon as possible.
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.”

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.

New rail services
We welcomed GWR's experimental service between Taunton and Bishops Lydeard, connecting with West Somerset Railway, on seven Saturdays between July and October 2019. This brought many extra visitors to West Somerset and Exmoor National Park without the need for a car. We hope this will be continued in 2020. Railfuture and Minehead Rail Link Group hope this will lead to a daily, all year service, possibly by extending some Cardiff-Taunton trains. 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.

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.
Our campaign to expand rail services in the South West, including more and better rolling stock - Rail's forgotten region - was featured in the Western Daily Press on 21 January 2015.

Some recent campaign successes

Filton Bank quadrupling completed. Railfuture Severnside branch and Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways have campaigned since 2007 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 3½ mile section was reduced to two tracks in 1984 and became a serious bottleneck as Cross Country, regional and local train services increased in frequency. Four tracking was essential for the MetroWest 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 was completed on 3 December 2018, including a fourth platform at Filton Abbey Wood.
Two new railway lines into Bristol Temple Meads completed to help improve passenger journeys - photo Network Rail
Two new railway lines into Bristol Temple Meads completed to help improve passenger journeys. Photo: Network Rail

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.

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. In December 2015, regular train services linking Yeovil Junction station (on the Exeter-Waterloo line) with Yeovil Pen Mill station (on the Bristol-Weymouth route) were introduced for the first time since 1968. An initial service on Monday to Friday afternoons and evenings was increased by South Western Railway from 19 May 2019 to eight services each way Mondays to Fridays, two each way Saturdays and one Sunday train from Yeovil Junction. These services, some of which run to or from Waterloo, represent another milestone towards a more joined up railway. They also give Frome another direct train to London, while Bruton gained its first through service to the capital since the early 1960s.

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 from December 2019.
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.

Consultation responses

The most recent response was in February 2024, to sub-national transport body Peninsula Transport on its draft Transport Strategy to 2050 - click to view or download. In September 2021 the sub-national transport body received our comments on their proposed Vision (view or download).
Previous responses were to South Gloucestershire Council's consultations for the new Charfield station, in October 2022 (view or download) and January 2022 (view or download).
All others are on the full dashboard of all Severnside branch documents.

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 Railfuture Severnside
Email: severnside at railfuture.org.uk

We're sorry to have to report that former branch secretary Nigel Bray passed away after illness in December 2021. His obituary appears in Railwatch edition 171.

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