Portishead Branch Line – MetroWest Phase 1

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

Portishead Branch Line - MetroWest Phase 1

Received 22 February 2020
From Philip Virden


1. The scheme is outdated. In 2019 the Council declared a climate emergency and pledged to do all it could to cut North Somerset’s carbon footprint. Running 36 diesel trains a day, most carrying very few passengers, can only raise emissions. 2. Predicted passenger numbers show that over 80% of the trains will be more than 80% empty (under 20% seat occupancy); on average, trains will run at 12% of seat-capacity (88% empty). By 2036, this will only improve to 16% (84% empty). Only two trains each weekday will run at anywhere near capacity, i.e., just 10 of the scheduled 236 trains per week, while only six other weekday trains will carry 50 or more passengers (20% of capacity). 3. Inconvenience: very few potential passengers will start their journey or reach their destination within only a few minutes’ walk of a station, and 4. One train an hour is a grotesque schedule: no extra trains for rush hours, most other trains nearly empty. 5. High environmental costs: burning carbon, pollution and unnecessary land use, especially since most trains will be almost empty and most passengers will have to get some distance to or from a station - probably by car, requiring a big new carpark at Portishead. 6. The official report estimates total running costs for the first three years up to £5m higher than revenues, but claims the trains ‘could break even after 5 years’. However, passenger numbers are not expected to rise dramatically, and nothing is offered to support this optimism. Therefore, 7. Fares will always be expensive and/or massively subsidised. 8. There was no investigation of other possible solutions to Portishead’s peak traffic problems: no alternatives to trains were ever considered (e.g., a busway, or even new bus-lanes). 9. Taking account of capital and running costs, research finds diesel buses at least twice as efficient as trains, so 10. A busway would have much lower environmental costs, substantially mitigating rather than worsening the climate crisis. 11. There could be even higher efficiency/lower economic and carbon costs by running eco-buses (e.g., renewables-electric, biogas). 12. A busway would deliver a far superior service: after coming off the line, buses circulating routes at each end and using normal roadway stops would pass close to the starting points or destinations of most travellers. 13. A busway with a reversible one-way flow to serve each ‘rush-hour’ (actually three hours) could be scheduled for a bus every few minutes at peak times. Off-peak, Portbury Docks trains would be able to run as normal over a Strail busway. 14. Estimated capital outlay for a Strail busway: £40m; for trains: £116m. 15. With far lower capital and running costs, busway fares would be much lower than train fares. 16. The public has never been informed of points 2, 5, 6, 7 and 8. That information has to be dug out from the very long and technical Funding Bid document.