Plans to once again open a “much needed” railway station in the Somerset village of Saltford, as well as three in the neighbouring city of Bristol, have taken a key step forward.
At a meeting of the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) committee on January 26th, local political leaders voted to spend £100k to investigate plans for four new stations at Saltford, St Annes Park, Ashton Gate, and Lockleaze.
Dan Norris, who heads WECA, said at the committee: “I am […] delighted by the new station study which includes, for the first time, Saltford. And I am really pleased that that is something we are hopefully going to move forward on now.
“It’s something I have felt strongly about for 25 years or so, ever since I was first the MP for that area, and nothing has changed — in fact the need for it has increased.”
Deputy leader of Bath and North East Somerset Council Sarah Warren added that the station in the village was “much needed.”
Lying between Bath and Keynsham, Saltford is known for its river which is a favourite spot for many in North East Somerset in the summer. The village used to have its own station but it fell to the Beeching axe in 1970.
It comes as WECA also approved £9.66m for reopening the Portishead Line, with new stations in Pill and Portishead. North Somerset Council gave their unanimous backing to the scheme earlier in January and it is hoped work could start in August once approved by the Department for Transport.
Unlike Portishead, trains are already running through Saltford and the three locations in Bristol, but there are no longer any stations for them to stop at. The study will investigate if building stations in these locations would be viable, but some could be discounted if it is found that they would not be.
Tim Rippington, who represents Brislington East on Bristol City Council, said he welcomed the plans to look at opening a St Anne’s Park station in his ward but said: “In the meantime, the dire public transport situation in St Anne’s and other parts of Brislington […] has deteriorated rather than improved.
“So whilst the reopening of the railway station would be very welcome in the long term, I also urge WECA to take action now to improve the current situation.”
He said: “So yes, please look again at St Anne’s station. It would be a vital part of the revitalised suburban rail network for Bristol in the decades to come. And can we also progress the mass transit system that Bristol so desperately needs. But right now please give us the buses we need.”
A £2m business case looking at how a mass transit system for Bristol and the wider West of England region could work is currently in limbo after a previous WECA committee in October saw political leaders fail to agree on progressing the plans. Mr Norris vetoed any further investigation of a “tube”-style tunnelled underground, while councils leaders refused to support any plans that did not include this.
LDRS, John Wimperis