Our Response to WECA The Future of the Region Consultation

Our Response to WECA The Future of the Region Consultation

West of England Combined Authority are developing a Spatial Development Strategy and invited everyone to help them shape the plan


This is Pilning Station Group’s response to the consultation: –

It is discouraging that WECA continue to disenfranchise residents, commuters, and leisure travellers to Pilning and Severnside. Despite a long-running campaign (which stems back to the late 1980s), WECA continue to ignore pleas from the local campaigners and refuses to include Pilning in the plans for MetroWest. According to the letter from Tim Bowles to Jack Lopresti MP, dated 2 April 2019, the reason for that is that WECA feel that the demand for the services at Pilning will be limited and investments in Pilning will not deliver a high enough return.

Upon further investigation, we found out that WECA’s assumption was not based on any tangible evidence. In the email to Pilning Station Group dated 21 February 2020, Cllr Stephen Reade, Cabinet Member for Planning Transport and Strategic Environment admitted that South Gloucestershire Council had not carried out a business case appraisal of the potential for enhancements at Pilning.

We also note that campaigners’ presentations of proposals for Pilning station to WECA (most notably, Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways, who presented their Rail Plan 2018 at WECA Public Forum in July 2018), at best, would only receive a thank you from the Chair. An FoI request to WECA submitted by Pilning Station Group in August 2020, revealed that the Authority held no internal correspondence or meeting minutes that related to the discussion of that particular proposal.

Moreover, even though Network Rail suggested that they should conduct a feasibility study and share their findings with WECA and South Gloucestershire Council, so that an informed decision could be made about the future of the station, WECA blocked all calls to give Network Rail a go-ahead.

Despite the negative attitude from the authorities, passenger numbers at Pilning stations continue the upwards trend from the turning point in 2016. The latest Station Usage figures released by Office of Rail & Road (ORR) on 1 December 2020, show a further significant increase for Pilning – 55% compared to 2018/19, and a truly remarkable 1,440% increase compared to 2015/16.  This shows beyond doubt that the initial increase was not accidental or artificially inflated – it has not only been maintained, but usage has continued increasing year on year as more and more people become aware of the station and the journey opportunities that even its current very limited service offers. It is worth noting that Severn Beach, a neighbouring station to Pilning (albeit located on a different line) enjoyed a 19.5% increase in passenger numbers in 2019/2020. ORR commented that a likely reason for the increase was an improved Sunday service, up to 11 trains per day, compared to the previous 2 services. Needless to say, that if extra 9 services on a Sunday accounted to nearly a 20% increase in passenger traffic, a regular two-directional service at Pilning would bring the station usage in line with all the other railway stations in South Gloucestershire. If trains were stopping there more frequently, a commuter connection to Severnside and a leisure passenger connection to the Wave and Wild Place Project could be provided by shuttle bus.

Pilning Station has a stupendous potential, not just for commuters into Severnside, but also as a “parkway” role, to provide commuter access to Bristol, Bath, Gloucester, Cardiff and London. By providing for the growing needs of Severnside, this station would also be relieving pressures on other routes around North Bristol.

We urge WECA to stop trying to brush the issues at Pilning railway station under the carpet. They must include a review of the services and facilities at Pilning in their short-term plan.