Network Rail is continuing to develop the proposal for four tracking between Dr Days Junction and Filton Abbey Wood. The scheme forms part of its Strategic Business Plan which has formed its “Control Period 5″ (2014-2019) funding request to Government. They will know if they have been successful in achieving funding in June 2013 when the Office of Rail Regulation publishes its draft determination identifying which schemes it is prepared to fund and how much has been allocated for this.
The proposed new two tracks will provide additional capacity that can be used for expected growth in freight, local and long distance passenger services.
Network Rail say the intention is to have one pair of lines predominantly for the fast CrossCountry services and one pair of lines for the local stoppers in order to achieve the journey time benefits for the fast services.
Assistant Mayor Mark Bradshaw, Bristol’s new Executive Member for Transport, Planning, Strategic Housing and Regeneration, said: “We continue to work with our partner councils and Network Rail to secure vital investment to replace the missing tracks at Filton Bank.
This and other infrastructure is required to breath life back into our disused railway assets. Four track is essential to delivering, not only high speed intercity connections, but also more local and city region services. A decision on this funding for the period 2014-19 will be made by Ministers next month. The new tracks would help expand local as well as electrified and cross-country rail services; so all passengers, whether travelling long distance or locally, will benefit if the funding package gets the green light. Approval is not guaranteed, so we must all keep up the pressure in cooperation with public transport campaigners and people across Bristol. The Post’s continuing backing for this work is much appreciated and is making a difference.”
In February we put in a £0.7m bid to the Department for Transport’s £20m New Stations Fund for the Portway Park & Ride platform. At a total cost of £0.9m Portway is a low cost, experimental station scheme which we hope will set a benchmark for future stations. Accompanying the bid were letters of support from the Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, Network Rail and First Great Western.
On 26 March 2013 we learnt that three stations so far have been awarded funding – Ilkeston in Derbyshire, Pye Corner in South Wales and Lea Bridge in East London. This still leaves around £5m in the pot and a further announcement is expected in May 2013 so fingers crossed for Portway.
Well it’s all change again on the Great Western Franchise with the latest Department for Transport announcement on 26 March 2013. What started as a two year extension has now been stretched to 33 months with First Great Western running trains up till July 2016. Beyond that they will operate the franchise under a ‘competed management contract.’ Details of this are unclear at present. Equally unknown is the level of consultation with and input from the West of England councils.
In the meantime the West of England has written to Simon Burns, Minister of State, on 20 March 2013 requesting enhancements to services and facilities in the franchise extension.
We do know there will be a “co-operation and non frustration” clause in the 33 month extension will enable First Great Western to work with the West of England on developing train service proposals for the Metro. Work also continues with Network Rail on the business case and infrastructure requirements.
The Department for Transport set out its plans (31/01/13) for the Great Western Franchise. Paused last October pending two reviews the Great Western franchise competition has now been terminated. Instead First Great Western will continue to run the existing franchise until October 2013. After that a new short term two year contract will be awarded, subject to negotiation and agreement with First Great Western. Longer term proposals and the timetable for future franchise competitions will be set out in Spring 2013.
In the event of a new contract not being signed the Government owned Directly Operated Railways will step in.
We look forward to seeing the longer term franchise proposals and timetable for the franchise competition in Spring 2013 and the opportunity to once again press the case for the Greater Bristol Metro. The delay to the start of the new franchise will enable the business case for Phase 2 of the Greater Bristol Metro (half hourly services to Yate and a reopened Henbury Line) to be strengthened and hopefully included as a Priced Option (only Phase 1 was included in the original franchise). In the meantime, First Great Western will continue to provide local train services.
On 7 January 2013 Network Rail published its Strategic Business Plan for 2014-19. It sets out in broad detail the schemes Network Rail think should be taken forward.
More detail can be found in the accompanying ‘Western Route – Summary Route Plan.’ Included on p35 are the proposals for the Greater Bristol Metro. Whilst this does not guarantee implementation it does embed the Metro in the rail industry’s plans and marks a major turning point in gaining recognition for the proposals.
The Metro map on p35 shows the current proposals for Phase 1, Phase 2 and new stations. These are subject to change for example aspirations for the Henbury loop service via the Severn Beach Line are not ruled out should revised growth forecasts and developer funding come forward and a business case be developed.
Find out more in The Strategic Business Plan and Western Route – Summary Route Plan
The Great Western Franchise process will hopefully soon be back on track. Paused last October pending two reviews into the franchise process the second of these has now been published (10 January 2013). Known as the ‘Brown Report’ it concluded that the franchise system is not broken and it is essential that the franchise programme should be restarted as soon as possible. The review recommended that by February 2013 the Government should publish its plans for the Great Western Franchise. We await more detail.
On 3 October 2012 the Department for Transport halted the award of the West Coast rail franchise pending the completion of two reviews on (1) where the franchise competition went wrong – due to report in a month and (2) a wider review of the franchise process – expected end of December 2012.
The Great Western Franchise process will be “paused” until after both reviews are published. The second review could have significant implications such as a complete rewrite of the Invitation to Tender and the Franchise Agreement.
The new franchise will be delayed by at least three months (assuming minimal change and a simple restart of the process) but more likely six to nine months if the Invitation to Tender and the Franchise Agreement have to be rewritten.
Meanwhile First Great Western would continue to run the existing franchise. It has been extended already to July 2013 so a further extension by DfT is likely.
For the Greater Bristol Metro (Phase 1) it will mean we have to wait a little longer to discover the cost of the Priced Option. However, unless the delay to the new franchise stretches into years, the original timescale of a 2017 start should be achievable.
Proposals for electrification, four tracking of Filton Bank, remodelling of Bristol East Junction should not be affected. These schemes are being undertaken by Network Rail and are independent of the franchise process.
A corporate sweat broke out on the forehead of the four authorities when dawn broke this morning, as we waited nervously to see if the government had funded our four tracks to Filton Bank.
You can see who we were up against on the DfT website
Rail Minister Theresa Villiers MP
And then Rail Minister Theresa Villiers swept into Temple Meads (looking a lot calmer than us) to confirm that four-track from Temple Meads to Filton Bank will go ahead.
Anyway, it’s all down to you again, wonderful public who like trains. Four track is the crucial bit of the jigsaw that we have to put in place to get Greater Bristol Metro Rail to work. So many, many thanks to the hundreds of you who wrote special letters to the ministers about it. Half-hourly trains in Bristol and the region, a new line to Portishead, and all those re-opened stations can actually happen.
Two more tracks here will make it easier for all local trains
See the coverage here:
A great big cheer goes up across Bristol as a government announcement confirms that the new £1 billion City Deal WILL fund all £100 million for Greater Bristol Metro Rail. It just shows what can be achieved when residents, businesses, the local councils and the local paper work together constructively to achieve something big that everybody wants.
Read the breaking story in The Post here
The Post will carry the full story in tomorrow’s paper.
It could be days or weeks, but soon the government will also announce its decision on whether to fund four track in Bristol. And we will know what the government expects rail operators to provide when it publishes its Great Western Franchise Specification. Then it’s time for us to get to work again, writing letters to the short-listed operators to ensure they put in competitive bids with the most trains and the highest quality stock conceivable.
We know we can depend on you, because you’ve brought us this far. When you get on your first Greater Bristol Metro train in 2014, please remember to give yourself a good pat on the back and think, I made this happen.
Publication of the High Level Output Specification (HLOS) is now likely to be in July 2012. This will coincide with a revised timescale for the new Great Western franchise. Originally the DfT planned to publish the Invitation to Tender, setting out what they expect to see in franchise bids, in May 2012. It is hoped that the HLOS will include the four tracking of Filton Bank giving the franchise bidders confidence to plan services including the Greater Bristol Metro.
The delay to issuing the Invitation to Tender may mean the new franchise starting in June/July 2013 (instead of April 2013). As indicated in the Great Western Franchise consultation document no timetable changes will take place until December 2014.