The option selection report, also known as a GRIP 3 report, is the result of a year-long study by Network Rail working with North Somerset Council on the engineering feasibility and estimated cost of re-opening the line.
The estimated construction cost of the project is £38.9 million in 2010/11 prices. In addition to this are costs of preparing detailed funding submissions, costs of preparing supporting information to secure powers to build and operate the project and costs associated with underwriting the operation of the train service for the first few years of operation.
Portishead Rail Corridor GRIP 3 Report
Volume 1: Executive Summary, Introduction, Business Objective, Business case, Project Scope, GRIP3 stage Deliverables, Assumptions, Options Considered, Recommended Option, Conclusions and Recommendations, Consultation
Volume 2: Appendix A Cost Estimate (not being published as to do so could inhibit the councils ability to procure the project for a fair price see page 39 of Volume 1 for an outline) Appendix B Risk Register, Appendix C Project Schedule, Appendix D environmental Appraisal, Appendix G Guide to Investment Projects, Appendix H Timetable modelling output.
GRIP (Guide to Rail Investment Projects) is Network Rail’s process for managing major investment projects, through a project life cycle.
GRIP 1 & 2 - Pre-feasibility
GRIP 3 - Option Selection
GRIP 4 - Reference Design
GRIP 5 - Detailed Design
GRIP 6 - Construction and commissioning
GRIP 7, 8 & 9 - Scheme handback, project close and post GRIP
North Somerset Council's deputy leader, whose portfolio includes strategic planning and transport, Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, said he was very encouraged by the findings.
"Network Rail has examined all the options and associated engineering implications very thoroughly and while the estimated costs are higher than previously thought, the train journey times are much better (quicker) than we had initially estimated.
"The re-opening of the line would put an end to years of commuting misery with a journey time into Bristol from Portishead of around 17 minutes. This would represent a considerable time saving for residents of Portishead and surrounding villages who currently have limited travel choices into Bristol, with traffic congestion on the A369 meaning that commuter journeys often take an hour or more."
Passenger train services from Portishead to Bristol were cut in the 1960s, although the line to Portbury Dock was re-opened in 2002 for freight trains only. However this is mainly a single track line and, to accommodate both freight and passenger trains in both directions of travel, will require major capacity upgrade works and completion of the line into Portishead town centre.
The GRIP 3 report takes account of the need to continue freight train operations on the line, and sets out the engineering and infrastructure requirements to operate a passenger train service.
The base project option is to operate passenger trains every half an hour at peak times and hourly off-peak, from Portishead calling at Pill and terminating at Bristol Temple Meads.
This represents the minimum level of service that the project would deliver.
The report also indicates that there is capacity to call at other stations along the branch line subject to detailed business-case feasibility, although this would delay journey times and could substantially increase costs.
There is also potential to operate services to destinations beyond Temple Meads, subject to more detailed analysis with train- operating companies.The engineering requirements identified in the report include:
Upgrading works to the existing Portbury freight line to a line speed of mainly 55 mph;
Reinstatement of Pill railway station;
Replacement of the dis-used track between Portbury Dock Junction and Portishead;
A new road bridge at Quays Avenue (road over the railway);
A new station at Portishead in Harbour Road.
The estimated construction cost of the project is £38.9 million in 2010/11 prices.
In addition to this are costs of preparing detailed funding submissions, costs of preparing supporting information to secure powers to build and operate the project and costs associated with underwriting the operation of the train service for the first few years of operation.
Cllr Ap Rees warned that although the GRIP 3 report is highly encouraging and a major step forward, it is not a quick fix and he is keen to now talk with government and in particular the Department of Transport to speed up the various processes and establish a funding package for the project.
"Taking account of the major project milestones in terms of funding approval, further Network Rail processes and other approval hurdles, at present the earliest construction could probably start is late 2015, with passenger train services re-introduced in early 2017.
"While that may seem some time away and progressing the project in the current climate of government budget restrictions is certainly a challenge, five years is a typical lead time up to beginning construction for projects of this scale. At least by this time the UK’s budget position should have recovered, giving us a greater chance of success," he added.The Portishead Rail project forms part of the prioritised programme of major transport schemes for the West of England sub-region, set out in the draft Joint Local Transport Plan 3, put together and agreed by the councils for Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. The final version of the plan comes into effect on April 1 2011 and covers a 15 year period to 2026.