Network Rail has awarded the £50M design and build contract for the restoration of the abandoned Portishead Branch Line to VolkerFitzpatrick. The contract is for multi-disciplinary works on the project and will see VolkerFitzpatrick construct 5.5km of new railway between Pill and Portishead, as part of the rejuvenated Portishead Branch Line – MetroWest Phase 1 project. This will see passenger services reintroduced to the line to Bristol Temple Meads. VolkerFitzpatrick’s bid was chosen from four submitted tenders. The works will include detail designs, surveys, environmental and ecology, civils, track, highways, buildings, telecoms, mechanical and electric and exploration and production. The Portishead Branch Line was closed in 1964 as part of the Beeching cuts. Plans to restore it were submitted to the Planning Inspectorate in late 2019. However, the project suffered setbacks due to carbon concerns.

Objections From the National Trust And Cost Concerns.

These were overcome, but the delays saw the cost for the project rise from an initial £116.4M to £152M, the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) confirmed last August. North Devon District Council remained determined to bring the line back into use and updated its funding plans to cover the additional costs, with further funds being provided by WECA and the Department for Transport. After overcoming these hurdles, the project was granted planning permission by transport secretary Mark Harper in November.The project will also involve the construction of a new rail station at Portishead and the reopening of a former station at Pill. These works will be awarded via a separate contract in the future. Reopening of the Portishead Branch Line is Phase 1 of the MetroWest project, with further phases set to see upgrades on the Severn Beach Line and the Bath Spa to Bristol Line. This will increase the UK’s passenger rail network by 14km and connect and additional 50,000 people to the rail network and improve the existing train service for 180,000 people within 1km of existing stations.