On Track: Dave Wood's column on railways
JUST like the 1960's television programme That Was The Week That Was, what a week it turned out to be. Heavy downpours of rain combined with high winds plus days of hard ground frost.
All this led to a deadly cocktail of rail disruption in the Greater Bristol area.
Leading up to last's weeks rail disruption we had flooding and the closure of tracks at Flax Bourton on the Bristol to Weston-super-Mare line. This was the second time in recent months that stretch of line flooded. The weather played havoc with services.
Scores of trains were cancelled, mainly due the embankment slip at Westerleigh in South Gloucestershire which hit the travelling public very hard indeed.
In respect of the line closures in the Greater Bristol area, the closure of the Midland railway that operated out of Bristol to Yate South junction stopping at all stations to Mangotsfield, has proved to be a short sighted.
When the Greater Bristol area closed all semaphore operated signal boxes in favour of a master signal box at Bristol Temple Meads that ended many railwaymen's careers.
It was also thought that this led to the closure of the Midland Railway, as British Rail had to been seen to justify the expenditure of Multiple Aspect Signalling improvements to the Greater Bristol area.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but if only they had put Multiple Aspect Signalling (these are signals with more than simply red and green lights) on the Midland Railway instead of closing it, this line could have been used as a diversionary route.
And the Westerleigh embankment slip would not have caused the problems that it did.
Coming back to present day we could be on the verge of major rail improvements to the Greater Bristol Railway network. It is encouraging local cross party MPs are in support of these.
Let us hope lessons have been learned from short sighted line closures. Now is the time to open up closed stations along with putting back in taken out lines. To improve on present train time table/frequencies we need to have more track capacity. The Great Western Rail Franchise has not yet been sorted out and it is imperative for starters the full Henbury Loop line is reopened, not left as a fudged dead end terminating at Henbury station.
David Wood, of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, writing in a personal capacity