Improvements to the railway network serving the Avonmouth industrial zone have boosted passenger numbers and reduced dependence on the car.
But timetables are not yet geared to shift patterns in the Local Enterprise Zones and employment hotspots – and are not likely to be freed up before the four-tracking of the main Temple Meads to Filton Abbeywood line is completed sometime in 2019/20.
New research undertaken by the Severnside Community Rail Partnership has highlighted the disconnect between timetables and shift patterns – especially the giant warehouse and distribution centres growing up within the West’s primary logistic hub.
The Severnside Railway initiative is to be applauded for the range of improvements carried out at Severn Beach and presently underway at Avonmouth Railway station.
According to the group’s figures, the Severn Beach line has seen a dramatic increase of passenger numbers, up 28 per cent over the last 18 months at Avonmouth and a massive 46 per cent at Severn Beach.
The group has been talking to local rail users, operators and businesses in the area to determine how the timetables could be adjusted to better serve their workforce: the train services have not been altered for around ten years.
The Severnside Community Rail Partnership carried out research with Great Western, focusing on who was using the trains and what their issues were.
Their conclusion is that any attempt to adjust the timetable on the Severn Beach to coincide with Metrowest will not be possible until 2019 when the four tracking between Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood will create room for an increase in services to Severn Beach.
As things stand, the timetable cannot be adjusted as there is no spare capacity going in to Temple Meads.
The Partnership also asked employers about local rail services and discovered many of them felt the services were too irregular and that many of the new logistics centres growing up in Severnside were too far from the stations.
Many workers were using the train as far as the local stations and either walking or cycling to their place of work. The majority of casual and temporary workers live in the Stapleton Road and Easton areas of Bristol and rely on the railway to get to work.
The group has discovered that current train timetables essentially date from 2007 and are more focussed on journeys to Bristol (and Clifton Down) than on serving the needs of work journeys in the Avonmouth / Severnside area. And while many of the employers in the area work a seven day week shift pattern, the train service is very poor on Sundays.
The restoration of the four tracking of Filton Bank in 2018 – will allow a half hourly service to Avonmouth and an hourly service on to Severn Beach.
And it can’t come a moment too soon as Bristol is groaning under the strain of chronic congestion. An improved rail service is clearly an important element in the solution.
Bruton Knowles is lending its weight to organisations such as Severnside Community Rail Partnership which is actively seeking solutions rather than identifying the problems – but what we really need is a travel plan in place which gives workers the option of leaving their cars at home and using the train network instead.
Paul Matthews is head of Bruton Knowles’ Bristol office
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