Reopening of Portishead to Bristol railway line hit with further delays

portishead railway line
Phase one of the MetroWest project would see the line between Bristol and Portishead reopened

A decision about whether to restore the old railway line between Bristol and Portishead has been hit by further lengthy delays.

The £116million MetroWest project has already been plagued by set-backs and the timescale has now been pushed back by a further 10 months. 

Work on the line had initially been expected to start in April 2021, with the first train due to run in 2024.

North Somerset Council submitted a development consent order to press ahead with MetroWest phase one - which will see the Portishead to Bristol railway line reopen - in November 2019.

Although the timeline has since been pushed back by the pandemic, the council and campaigners had been expecting a Government decision on the application yesterday (Tuesday 19 April) but it was instead delayed until February next year. 

Where would the MetroWest Portishead railway line stop?

The first phase of the project would see new stations created in Pill and Portishead, with an hourly service running between Bristol Temple Meads and Portishead.

The second phase would see the reopening of the Henbury Line at Henbury, North Filton and Ashley Down.

In a statement, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Robert Courts said the delay is to enable North Somerset Council "further time to demonstrate that funding for the entire scheme has been secured".

"The decision to set the new deadline is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent for the above application," he added.

It was originally estimated the line would cost £58million to complete, but in 2020 bosses admitted it could be as high as £175million.

The plans for the new station at Portishead Credit: TravelWest

North Somerset Council leader Don Davies described the delay as "incredibly disappointing" saying it will have "continued cost implications" for the scheme.

"The financial challenges for the project as a result of increased costs from the pandemic and construction and energy inflation are very significant, in addition to further costs of delay posed by today’s announcement," he added.

"We will continue to lobby government for additional funding to address the shortfall."

His disappointment was echoed by Portishead rail campaigner Peter Maliphant, who said: "We're concerned and disappointed the Secretary of State has announced another delay.

"Everyone in Portishead and Pill would love to see the return of the railway and we hope that it will happen but just a little further into the future than we thought."

But North Somerset MP Liam Fox told ITV News West Country the government is "committed" to the project.

He said: "The bottom line is that the government has said it is committed to the project going ahead but there will now have to be discussions between North Somerset Council, the West of England Combined Authority and the Department for Transport as to where the allocation for any extra funding will come from."