Sunday, 4 August 2013

meanwhile ... deep in the woods

(All pics copyright Steve Sainsbury/Rail Thing)

Bristol is pretty much Britain's Least Green City, with a non-existent suburban railway network and, unbelievably, NO trams!!

But even here the 21st century is beginning to intrude and rail development is starting to happen - at last. Last week we went for a walk down the floating harbour and environs and found a few modern touches, plus a bit of history. Above is a shot of the revitalised Portishead line, now being reopened to passengers but not until 2018! What's the problem - it looks ready to me!!

At Ashton there is still a platform, just waiting for the trains to return.

And as we walked along we heard the squeal of brakes then a deep throated roar as this appeared in the woods above us ....

Pulling wagon after wagon, and reminding us of the long freight trains common in the USA.

Across the river was a piece of history, the bottom station of the Clifton Rocks Railway, which lurks under the rock and links this part of the city to the Avon Gorge Hotel, or more precisely linked!

And just a bit closer to the city is the end station of the Bristol Harbour Railway, a fascinating and little known heritage line that runs a few weekends a year. It has several interesting features including steam, open wagons for carriages, some genuine street running and the rare case of three interesting and useful terminals - at the Create Centre (here), the SS Great Britain (a British icon) and the M Shed (a fantastic FREE museum).

So despite all the attempts of the council to make Bristol about as unGreen as possible other more enlightened people are turning the clock forward and giving us a vision of what the transport future of Bristol will be. With a revived suburban network with new stations and lines we can start to throw off our dependence on that ridiculous 20th century anachronism, the car. And the Portishead line plus that Harbour railway have a connected fate I think. The buffer stops above are only about 300 metres from the Portishead line, linked by a bridge (on which the rails are still in situ!)

The Portishead line needs a fresh approach. Of course a regular train service into Temple Meads will be excellent and well patronised, and can provide an excellent onward service via the network, But why not also tap into all new traffic and bring it into the heart of Bristol, over the bridge and along the harbour railway and then, on street, right into the centre? You could have an hourly diesel service from Portishead  to Temple Meads (with perhaps the occasional through train to Paddington) coupled with a regular interval tram service from Portishead (with perhaps an on street section into the heart of the town) to Bristol Centre.

With the tram option now available and visible the line could kickstart what we all know Bristol needs - a proper city wide tram system. And also with trams in Portishead the rather obvious (but currently closed) route into Clevedon and Weston could also form yet another tram route with a fantastic future.

Let's get started!!


  1. Everything about Bristol and transport makes me cringe. All you have to do is imagine what the place would be like if it was situated in Germany or Switzerland - yes, transformed

  2. You won't every get trains from Portishead to Bristol Harbour, and one of the reasons why the branch can't be used by passenger trains is that it isn't signalled to the required standards.