Leaders of the Western Gateway partnership have welcomed a decision taken at the West of England Combined Authority Committee on 19 June to extend the scope of the Metrowest 2 increased train services between Bristol and Gloucester. The amended project scope will explore the means for delivering services every 30 minutes, rather than hourly. Faster, more frequent trains on the Bristol to Gloucester line was identified as one of the early ambitions of the partnership and is an example of the increased connectivity across the West that can be delivered by multiple Authorities and partners coming together to identify infrastructure priorities.
The Western Gateway is an economic partnership across south Wales and western England which aims to boost local economies by working together. The Western Gateway was launched by Cabinet Ministers in November 2019 and is the UK’s third powerhouse after the Northern Powerhouse and the Midlands Engine.
The rail line running from Bristol through Gloucestershire to Birmingham at present only offers an hourly service (reflected in the fact that despite the pressures on the M5, only 1% of trips on this route are by rail), The Metrowest 2 project proposals would mean more frequent trains and quicker journey times across the area, plus the re-opening of the Henbury line with stations at North Filton and Henbury. The Gloucester extension is considered a preferable terminating point for the services because less significant infrastructure interventions are anticipated whilst extending the communities within reach of the MetroWest services, thanks to the use of smart engineering and signalling improvements.
Chair of the Western Gateway Katherine Bennett said: ‘I am delighted to see the extended scope of this project and know that it will be welcomed by many of our partners. We have collectively identified connectivity as a critical theme for the partnership to develop and rail is an area which clearly crosses multiple boundaries and connects our economy with London and the other powerhouse areas. We will add our collective weight to the work already being done by our Local Government colleagues working with the likes of train operators and Network Rail to progress opportunities such as Metrowest 2’.
Mayor of the West of England, Tim Bowles, said: “The new MetroWest rail network is going to get our region and its economy moving. It will help create jobs, connect our communities and create more than 1 million new journeys on our railway network each year. It will also help us cut carbon emissions, ease congestion and improve our region’s air quality so I’m very pleased that by extending services to Gloucester and Westbury we will give even more residents see those benefits that I know they have been calling for.”
Leader for South Gloucestershire Council, Toby Savage, said: “The demand for services between Yate and Bristol is significant, especially at peak times. Providing an enhanced service will be well-received by commuters, but also a large number of our students. Extending the increased services up to Gloucester is a further very welcome addition and adds considerable weight to our ambitions for Charfield Station and increasing sustainable travel across South Gloucestershire.”
Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, said: “Improving the public connections between Bristol and our neighbours will help people and businesses recover in an inclusive and sustainable way from the past few challenging months.
This welcome increase in services will mean people can connect to economic opportunities across the Western Gateway region, which will help us to realise our full potential in the future.”
Leader for Gloucestershire County Council, Mark Hawthorne, said: “More trains between Bristol and Gloucester will be excellent news – making it easier and more convenient to choose environmentally friendly travel options. This development, with other infrastructure improvements the county council is delivering, will help strengthen our economy and protect jobs. By working together as the Western Gateway we are delivering real benefits for local people.”
Given the pressures on the M5 and projections of significant population growth this proposal for a more sustainable option for the region is to be welcomed. Delivery of this project would support jobs, housing and connections from the Western Gateway area to economic centres in the West Midlands.