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Bristol rail success

21 August 2023

FoSBR members lobbying for better funding at Clifton Down station in 2010, one step in the decades long campaign to save and improve the Severn Beach Line. Photo Tina Biggs via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Railways are a valued part of life, but are too often under threat. But it’s not always bad news, especially when people campaign effectively, as they've done in Bristol.

In Bristol, 31 July 2023 was a red-letter day for the city and its travellers. It marked the opening of Portway, the city’s first new station for 97 years.

New stations

Even better, this is the first of a series of new stations planned for the region: Ashley Down, Portishead, Pill, North Bristol/Brabazon, Henbury and Charfield. Beyond that there are aspirations for three more – Ashton Gate, St Anne’s and Lockleaze.


The new station will ease congestion on local roads and provide free parking, 24 hours a day, for up to 800 vehicles. It will provide an additional transport option for the 9,000 people who work in the surrounding area and improve access to the Avonmouth and Temple Quarter business zones.

Portway station is close to Junction 18 of the M5, offering visitors the opportunity to park and continue their visit by train. The city's main station, Bristol Temple Meads, is just 24 minutes away on a half-hourly service.


The news was not always this positive. Around 28 years ago, the Severn Beach branch line, which hosts Portway, was under threat of closure. The line was saved only through constant campaigning by residents, rail unions and the pressure group Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FoSBR).

‘The station would not exist without dogged determination.’

Since then, great progress has been made in improving frequency and reliability of the service – the key to increased usage. The line regularly attracts a million passengers a year. Dogged determination paid off, not resting after the line was saved. Otherwise, Portway station would not exist today.


A non-party political approach to working with allies was vital. At its AGM this year FoSBR decided to adopt a new name, Bristol Rail Campaign. This recognises that its ambitions now extend beyond the Severn Beach line.

FoSBR has earned the respect of all those who care about and work for the railways. The renamed group will continue to produce its newsletter; issue 110 has just appeared. It always contains accurate, well-researched information and an impressive level of expertise.