MP Liam Fox signals Portishead railway line return is on the cards
Fifty years after the infamous Beeching Report signalled its closure, the clearest sign yet that Portishead will once again get a railway line has emerged.
Dr Liam Fox, the former defence secretary and Conservative MP for North Somerset, has revealed he is more hopeful than ever before that the rail line to the fast-growing North Somerset town will reopen by 2017.
Portishead lost its rail line in September 1964 as a consequence of a review into the viability of Britain’s loss-making branch railways by Dr Richard Beeching. Almost ever since there have been campaigns to restore it, but finally – it seems – the project just might be making headway.
Dr Fox said he has been talking to government ministers and said he is more “upbeat than on any previous time” about the prospect of seeing trains running to Portishead once again.
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The move has come just weeks after Network Rail, the organisation which operates train tracks across the country, said that the line is a part of its business plan for the next five years. Dr Fox took part in a meeting with Transport Minister Simon Burns along with rail campaigners from North Somerset.
He said: “We were all very optimistic following the information that the minister was able to give us.
“ I hope that we will now see trains running in 2017 and expect that we will get a definitive announcement on dates and funding in Parliament before the summer recess.”
Bristol’s new mayor has also been pushing for the line to be reopened as part of the plans for the Bristol Metro scheme. George Ferguson wants the rail network in the Bristol area to link up with the new Rapid Transit Network system.
Money would have to be spent on upgrading the track from Portbury Dock as it is not of a good enough standard to run passenger services.
The track is currently only used by freight trains which carry coal and cars from Royal Portbury Dock to locations across the country.
The track was reopened in the 1990s to freight and is capable of taking trains at speeds of up to 30mph, while passenger trains operate at speeds of up to 60mph.
Further work will also have to be carried at the Pill tunnel to improve drainage.
Long-time transport campaigner David Redgewell said: “I would say that the signs coming out of central Government are looking very promising at the moment.”