New study will look at getting electrification of Bristol’s railways back on track by slashing costs

February 2, 2024

Plans to electrify Bristol’s mainline rail services have been revived following a move to lower the price of the scheme, which was scrapped on cost grounds eight years ago.

The project, which would have cut journey times to London by up to 20 minutes, hit the buffers in 2016 when the government pulled the plug. 

That decision angered business leaders in Bristol as millions of pounds worth of work had already been carried out around the city to electrify the lines between Bristol Temple Meads, Bristol Parkway and Bath Spa stations.

Now a detailed study will take place aimed at reducing the unit cost of the scheme as part of a wider regional transport plan being introduced by West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris.

The study will initially explore electrification of the tracks north of Temple Meads to Parkway – a stretch of line known as Filton Bank.

Mayor Norris, who heads the West of England Combined Authority (WECA), said the cost of the scheme in 2016 was around £3.5m per single track km. The aim is to try to slash that to £1.5m.

Typically, an electric train emits between 20-35% less carbon per passenger mile than a diesel train, while studies also show up to a 300% improvement in reliability on suburban lines.

Pointing out that just 38% of the UK’s rail network is electrified compared to 60% in the EU, Mayor Dan Norris said: “It’s the right thing to do for people and the planet.

“I was proud to vote for electrification under the last Labour government, and today we’re finally heading in the right direction again.

“If we’d stuck to the original plans, our local lines would have been electrified by 2017. Now, in the context of a serious climate emergency, it’s even more important.”

He said one option was to use some of the £100m earmarked for regional transport to deliver electrification.

A second phase of the scheme would expand electrification from Temple Meads through Bath Spa to Chippenham.

Full electrification between Temple Meads and London Paddington would cut journey times to the capital by just under 20 minutes to around one hour, 20 minutes.

The cost of full electrification of the main lines from London to Bristol was put at £874m in 2013 but had spiralled to £2.8bn by the time it was shelved in 2016.

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