By Sam Rkaina, Local Government Reporter
GREATER Bristol is more interested in carrying out rail studies than actually reopening stations, according to a rail expert.
Former London Rail boss Ian Brown has published a study for the Railway Development Society, which looks at investment in local rail services.
The study shows that while 356 stations have re-opened across the country since 1960, in Bristol there has been just two
Mr Brown concludes that “the Bristol region has not as yet shown any evidence of fulfilling the role of an effective ‘client’ for rail, although there has been considerable expenditure on seemingly endless ‘studies’”.
Local rail campaigners point out that areas with one body to sort out transport – Integrated Transport Areas – have fared much better, and Mr Brown agrees.
That includes West Yorkshire with 22 re-opened stations, Merseyside with 16, and Greater Manchester with 15.
Mr Brown said it is clear that “judging by actual results the ITA model is far more effective and provides local accountability for the planning and implementation of rail schemes”.
He said: “Bristol, despite its size and economic vibrancy, has been almost completely ineffective in acting as ‘client’ in developing its rail network.
“Bristol scores well below the six cities with ITAs, and below many far more rural ‘shire’ counties who see economic prosperity in connectivity with surrounding cities.
“Crossrail, Europes largest rail scheme, went ahead on the basis of its economic effect. Bristol would be unique in the UK in not pursuing an integrated transport solution to the city’s economic growth aspirations.”
Rail groups say this is yet more proof that Greater Bristol needs an ITA – which is exactly what an Evening Post is calling for.
Earlier this month the Post unveiled the “Let’s Get Moving” campaign, which quickly won support from cross-party MPs and councils, campaigners, businesses, universities and residents.
In response the body that represents the four local authorities – the West of England Partnership – has agreed to look at exactly what would be involved in setting up an ITA at their next meeting in September.
Supporters of an ITA say it would give Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset greater control over the local transport network.
It would allow the councils to regulate fares, buy in services, a better chance of securing government funding and a greater chance of reinstating disused local rail stations to create a Bristol Metro.
Spokesman for Friends of Suburban Railway Rob Dixon said: “In the West of England, rather than acting to reopen rail lines and stations as they have in other comparable cities, the West of England Partnership have spent £70 million on new buses, bus stops and information screens.
“Merseyside’s ITA have recently spent £32 million on a new station while the West of England Partnership have spent £200,000 of central government money on minor improvements to stations and information boards. If investment can be made elsewhere, why not here? We deserve much better.
“The only time that a station has been reopened in our area was when the area was united under Avon County Council.
“Since local government was split into smaller, uncoordinated units, very little has been achieved. While other areas have shown their commitment through action, our councils have argued amongst themselves and achieved little.”
The West of England Partnership has said it supports the idea of improved local rail.
Bristol City Council has helped fund an improved service on the Severn Beach line and North Somerset Council is currently bidding for support to re-open the Portishead railway line.