RAIL CAMPAIGNERS and residents of Pilning gathered at the village’s rail station this week to urge for the replacement of a platform footbridge.
Leading the campaign to save the bridge are Pilning and Severn Beach parish councillors as well as Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways (FOSBR), both of whom fear for the future of the station, should one of its two platforms be shut down.
The meeting, which took place on Monday, follows last month’s announcement by Network Rail that as part of the electrification works for the line that connections Paddington-to-Cardiff, they would be demolishing the footbridge that connects the station with its westbound platform, a move that would subsequently close the platform itself.
As a result the station, which already has one of the lowest footfalls in the country, would only be served by trains directly to Bristol.
The removal of the footbridge is planned during a six-week closure of the Severn and Patchway tunnels from September 12, to October 21 when no trains will be running.
Rob Dixon, chairman of FOSBR, said: “Pilning has an unusual “Parliamentary” service, one train a week in each direction on Saturdays, and therefore currently has a low footfall.
“But it has a strategic position on Severnside with a direct connection to Wales, and the West of England Partnership requested an increased service for Pilning in the 2014 Great Western franchise consultation.
“Not replacing the footbridge now will make the station virtually unusable, as passengers will only be able to travel in one direction and not return by a direct train. It is incredibly short-sighted.”
The group have highlighted that once the bridge and platform close, passengers travelling to and from Bristol Temple Meads on a Saturday would have to return via the Severn Tunnel, which involves a 45 minute wait, reduce their time in Bristol by around three hours.
Pilning and Severn Beach Parish councillor Heather Rickards said: “There have been up to ten or eleven people taking the Saturday trains each week recently, but no-one will want to spend the whole day changing trains!”
Frances Barr MBE, chairman of the Parish Council, said: “We are disappointed that Network Rail did not consult with the Parish Council or the West of England Partnership before this drastic change. It is Network Rail’s duty to replace the footbridge during the electrification works as it will be much more difficult and expensive to replace it later.”
Andy Short, a member of SevernNet, a network of companies in Severnside, commented: “There are many workers in Severnside, near Pilning, who commute in from both Bristol and Wales, but the removal of the footbridge would make any commute laughably convoluted.
“There is considerable commercial growth of up to 10,000 new jobs planned for this area and with the lead time for rail projects being around eight years it seems incredible that the footbridge is not being replaced now, even before the finalising of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership’s Joint Spatial Plan.”
Network Rail have previously said that the footbridge would be destroyed during the works and would not be rebuilt as the station’s low level of use would not justify the cost, but have continued to highlight the fact that the station would continue to operate.
A spokesman for Network Rail said: “We are not closing Pilning Station, nor does the removal of the footbridge rule out the possibility of improving the station at some point in the future should demand significantly increase.
“We are planning to host a public drop-in event in Pilning in the near future to explain our position further and engage with residents and stakeholders on this matter.”