Station snarl-up sours PM's transport revolution pledge

 

Number 10 has caused confusion after pledging to upgrade a non-existent station as part of the prime minister's revolution in local transport.

On Tuesday, as part of Boris Johnson’s set-piece announcement that the Government was backing the £106bn HS2 project, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Department for Transport pledged a raft of other transport improvements.

”Local
Bristol East Junction without the station

These included ‘Upgrading Bristol East Junction station to tackle a major pinch point in the South West rail network, so that passengers can travel in and out of Bristol more easily’.

Addressing MPs, the prime minister correctly stated that it is only the junction that is being upgraded. There is no station at the site, which lies to the east of Bristol Temple Meads station.

However, the West of England Combined Authority under mayor Tim Bowles welcomed the promised upgrade to ‘Bristol East Junction station’, in both a press release, which it has subsequently corrected, and on Twitter.

Mr Bowles sees the upgrade as vital to his ‘MetroWest’ plan to improve rail services in the region.

The junction upgrade is a longstanding plan that previously received ministerial backing. In June last year, the then transport secretary, Chris Grayling, visited Bristol to express his support for the project, albeit subject to work to assess the business case ‘and to unlock the funding request to deliver the scheme’.

Under Network Rail's budget for Control Period 6 (2019-2024) enhancements are funded and announced separately.

The Network Rail website states: ‘A major junction just outside Bristol Temple Meads needs to be replaced to improve reliability and comfort for passengers, as well as increasing flexibility and allowing for the future expansion of the railway. This will involve a two-year programme of track, signalling and other work; starting in December 2019 and running through until the end of 2021.’

A Network Rail spokesperson told Transport Network: 'The Bristol East Junction works are already programmed in as we are working towards increasing capacity of the railway network ahead of the MetroWest programme.

'However, we had not had final decision on funding until the announcement from the Prime Minister. We are now issuing contracts with pre-work starting this spring. The main engineering work will take in place in summer 2021. This will enable the new junction to be in full use from autumn 2021.'

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