Portishead railway line cleared ahead of track checks

Work to clear the disused Portishead railway line has begun 49 years after passenger trains last used the route.

Contractors employed by North Somerset Council, which owns the line, have moved in to start cutting back the vegetation.

The track is being inspected to see how much work would be needed before trains could start running again.

The Department for Transport is expected to make an announcement on funding later this year.

Part of the line into Bristol - from Portbury - was reopened in 2002 but the rest of the route remains disused.

Network Rail is currently in discussions with the West of England Partnership to develop the Greater Bristol Metro which will include Portishead.

'Positive step'

"I think there's an aspiration to reopen that line," said John Baker of Network Rail Wales and West.

"We're committed to develop those lines where we can and will do our best to realise it."

The work has been welcomed by campaigners lobbying for the line to be reopened.

"The work is essential to allow the next phase of the reopening process to progress," said Portishead Railway Group vice-chairman Colin Howells.

"Portishead Railway Group sees this as another positive step towards the ultimate goal of trains running on the track between Portishead and Bristol by 2017."

A study in 2010 showed that travel time from Portishead would be 17 minutes compared to an hour by road during peak times.

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