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Author Topic: Stonehouse (Bristol Road) - re-opening of station?  (Read 840 times)
grahame
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« on: November 17, 2019, 06:31:06 am »

I attended a meeting of my region's RailFuture branch in Stonehouse yesterday.  Although just 35 miles from home, it took me all day to get there and back – a combination of infrequent trains (at the Melksham end), awful connections (both between trains and from trains to meeting time) and a routing that involved a dogleg via Swindon. See http://www.passenger.chat/22458

Stonehouse has a natural affinity and economic pull to Bristol - 30 miles away, but its trains are on a "cross line" running from Cheltenham Spa via Gloucester to Swindon and alternate trains (to become nearly all in a month's time) on to London. For Bristol, people travelling from the current Stonehouse (Burdett Road) Station need to change at Gloucester (for the hourly stopper), Cheltenham Spa (for the express which runs every 30 minutes) or even Swindon (if headed to Bath rather than Bristol).  All sounds very familiar to us in Melksham - where the trains head for Swindon and Westbury, and the biggest draw in Bath and Bristol - a similar distance as Stonehouse to Bristol.

Maps at the end of this post to give the reader some context

As well as simialirites, there are differences at Stonehouse.  The Cheltenham Spa and Gloucester to Bristol line actually passes the side of Stonehouse, but there's no station on that line.  And Stonehouse runs into Ebley and the town of Stroud up the Stroudwater valley (also with its own station on the London to Cheltenham Spa service) with a total population in the catchment of some 60,000 to 70,000.  Molly Scot Cato, the green MEP for the South West, lives locally and attended the meeting - she talked briefly of the inefficiency (time and sustainability) of her travelling from the local station to Plymouth ... passing by her home 40 minutes after she's left after an undesired excursion via Cheltenham.  I'll stress this is not a party political issue - the conservative candidate (Siobahn Baillie) was in the audience, and the MP standing for re-election (David Drew) sent his apologies and has been know as a long time supporter of the campaign to re-open a station at Stonehouse (Bristol Road) on the main Birmingham to Bristol line.

This campaign has come up before on the forum, with David getting an honourable mention:

I've just stumbled across a list of candidate stations.

http://trundleage.co.uk/2016/08/new-stations-fund-round-2-contenders/

Quote
The second round of the New Stations Fund sees up to £20m allocated to projects to open railway stations on the national rail network in England and Wales. The first round supported the opening of five railway stations. Three have been opened and the other two are due to open shortly.
There are a number of contenders for this funding. The first round saw thirteen applications for funding and a number of groups organisations have progressed campaigns and studies into other candidates.

So who are the contenders!

[snip]

Stonehouse (Bristol Road)

With strong support from residents and the local MP, this station would provide a direct link to Bristol and Birmingham for residents of Stonehouse.

[snip]


The meeting was chaired and presented by Robert Crockford, a long time advocate for the new station, a former BR (Southern) man, who's used skills learned there to develop the potential passenger flow data for the proposed station. A good selection of town councillors, county reps, Stroudwater Canal managers (a canal restoration funded to a similar or greater level than a station would need, and well under way - https://www.cotswoldcanals.org.uk) helped make up a very high powered audience; I noted a sign in sheet so that Robert and the others involved should have the tools to follow up.

Robert quoted figures in passenger journeys per head of population per annum as one of his key measures.  It's an excellent measure (and one I have extensively used).  Figures of just under 8 jpppa (journeys per person per annum) quoted for current stations / service in the Stroud Valley, with a suggestion that the number would be around 20 with the new station at Bristol Road added. Making that a station with around 600,000 journeys per annum - "in the top third of UK stations in terms of passenger numbers".  I would agree that the projection makes sense; it's in line with comparable areas in neighbouring counties.  Robert was very kind to suggest that Melksham was a good example of growth for them to look at - frankly, I'm not so sure; we have risen from 0.3 jpppa to around 2.8 jpppa which is still far short of what's being achieved already in the Stroud Valley. However all (bar one) other Wilshire stations already have a figure of 20 jpppa or better - some up to 50 - so his target is realistic.  He just needs the station, reliable, fast(ish) and affordable services there to where people want to go, and joined up elements to ensure they can get to the station.

At this stage of exploring options, what are the future options to enable Stonehouse and Stroud Valley people to get to Bristol by rail?
1. A combined station at Standish Junction
2. Road transport to Cam and Dursley
3. Better interchange at Cheltenham or Gloucester
4. Local service reversing at Standish
5. Leave as it is
6. A suggestion to re-open (part of?) the old Nailsworth branch to a south-facing junction
7. Re-open Stonehouse (Bristol Road)
Some of these can be chucked out very quickly ... others worth exploring.

Should the re-opening of Bristol Road come out tops, there are many other questions such as
a. Availability of land
b. Availability of paths (need for loops??)
c. Effect on through passengers of extra stop (also consider Charfield campaign)
d. Abstraction from Burdett Road and from Cam and Dursley
e. Financial sustainability of linking bus service and ability to provide robust connections
f. Who's going to pay for it?

In this summary, I'm just giving bullet points.  Opening a conversation, perhaps.  Most people walk to (the) station and, yes, it is proposed on the edge of the urban area. Employment around the station site, tick.  Funding.  Local support more than just "yes we support you" words - an active project lead.  Marketing, surveys of local sentiment, etc (the five elements we were asked to provide for the TransWilts trial service are a good start).  Robert has an opportunity to capitalise on yesterday's meeting - step up a gear. The idea of this re-opening has been bumping along for 20 years but references online at present are stale; good to see a real kick of life / interest yesterday - I hope the meeting has formed the grounding for a fresh look at the idea and perhaps it'll progress to more than just a look.


Existing stations (purple) and suggested site for new station (green)
Under a ScribbleMaps license


Stonehouse in context (and showing the absurd extra mileage to go via Cheltenham to Bristol
Huge "thank you" to Richard Fairhurst for his Adlestrop Railway Atlas
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Bmblbzzz
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« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2019, 09:57:57 am »

I grew up near Stonehouse and thought of this possibility immediately I saw your other post about the Melksham to Stonehouse journey. Back then, in the mid to late 80s and early 90s, the connections were IIRC better via Swindon but fares higher than via Gloucester. Cam & Dursley station hadn't opened at that time, and wouldn't have been much use to me anyway.

Looking at your list:
Quote
1. A combined station at Standish Junction
2. Road transport to Cam and Dursley
3. Better interchange at Cheltenham or Gloucester
4. Local service reversing at Standish
5. Leave as it is
6. A suggestion to re-open (part of?) the old Nailsworth branch to a south-facing junction
7. Re-open Stonehouse (Bristol Road)
1 seems a bad idea, if it is to replace the current station. The junction is not easy to access.
2 and 3 seem attractive, and 4 if it can be done without interfering with other services. I don't really see how 6 would improve services to Bristol. 7 would certainly get my vote – or would have done when I lived there.
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« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2019, 11:19:53 am »

It strikes me that there should be a better service than hourly between Gloucester and Bristol, and reopening the station on the main line could help to make it more viable. 

Also, there is a huge amount of development south of Gloucester, around Quedgeley and Hardwick that could either do with its own station, or if that isn't possible, would find a new station at Stonehouse very attractive for commuting to Bristol (if there was enough parking).
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2019, 11:23:27 am »

If there waa sufficient demand for a service to the south along the Midland main line from Stonehouse, it would be far far cheaper to provide a regular interval bus service to Cam & Dursley. And that could be done potentially within days if there was a will to do it..

I doubt if I'll live long enough to see any of the other proposals bear fruit, once they've been through cost-benefit analyses, planning, appeals, NIMBYs and so on.
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johnneyw
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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2019, 12:07:30 pm »

The proposed new Stonehouse station looks to be very close by to where work on the line is already earmarked to take place fairly soon with the reconstruction of the rail bridge over the Cotswold Canal at Ocean Basin in order to restore navigable access to the next phase of canal restoration. This should be completed well before any work on a new station would start.  Shame, in a way, that this bridge and any new station were not ready to start at the same time as it might have meant less line closures.
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grahame
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« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2019, 12:16:03 pm »

The proposed new Stonehouse station looks to be very close by to where work on the line is already earmarked to take place fairly soon with the reconstruction of the rail bridge over the Cotswold Canal at Ocean Basin in order to restore navigable access to the next phase of canal restoration. This should be completed well before any work on a new station would start.  Shame, in a way, that this bridge and any new station were not ready to start at the same time as it might have meant less line closures.

If you're looking at the dates for the reconstruction of the rail / canal bridge, the lady from the Cotswold Canal Trust at yesterdays meeting told us that' booked in already with Network Rail for May 2021.    The campaign for the new station there (or, rather, re-opening of a 1965 closure) has been gently bouncing along - I understand - for several decades and needs moving from "good idea" to let's have a proper look" ... too late for all those GRIPping stages to be done for 2021, I'm afraid.
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grahame
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« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2019, 03:15:36 pm »

From the Stroud News and Journal

Quote
By Ian Mean

Business West Gloucestershire Director

THIS is the age of the train-that was that television advertisement from the 1970s.

I believe, that 30 years later, we could be on the verge of a new dawn for the rail network.

Last Saturday, Railfuture Severnside held a campaign meeting to discuss the re-opening of the Stonehouse(Bristol Road) station which was closed post the Beeching axe.

It would be easy to dismiss this sort of rail campaign as the focus of some ageing rail anoraks steeped in the past. I believe this would be very shortsighted - especially in Stroud and the Five Valleys where train connection to Bristol is abysmal.

[snip - see original article]

What is going to be required is a direct rail connection from Stonehouse and Stroud to Bristol—the place where young people want to be. It is no use at all to try and develop Stroud as the UK’s first carbon neutral town unless the Five Valleys has a council supported, sustainable transport policy. That policy must have train travel at its heart.

This will ease congestion on the M5 and particularly help our young people to discover a new age of the train.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2019, 03:45:25 pm »

i don't shock easily, but I came close to it this afternoon when I looked up the current bus services to Cam & Dursley station.

There is only one route that gives a reasonable service to the station car park - the 2-hourly service 60 from Gloucester to Dursley that runs down the main road, so of little use if you are going to or from Stonehouse. There is a service 65 that runs from Stroud via an interesting route of Nailsworth, Nympsfield, Uley and Dursley which terminates at Upper Cam, a last a couple of miles from the station, but two service per day at the peak are extended to the station. And by the way, that service runs on weekdays only. Then there is an hourly serice 61 which actually does run from Stroud and Stonehouse to Dursley, but that takes a wander off to Slimbridge on the way and stays on the main A4135 road through Cam and doesn't directly serve the station. Ironically, it does serve the former apprioach road to Coaley Junction station!

Call me naive if you will, but I tend to hold the view that in these deregulated days, if there is money to be made out of a bus service then someone will run it. The fact that no operator seems to be particulrly bothered about providing a regular bus between Stonehouse and Cam & Dursley station suggests to me that there is curretly insufficien demand. If this is so it wouldn't bode very well for a station reopening campaign.
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mjones
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« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2019, 06:32:55 pm »

That is a long way to travel by bus to catch an infrequent local train service. It would be very uncompetitive in journey time with driving and have limited benefit over taking the bus all the way to  Bristol; which would avoid the risk of missed connections. In transport planning terms there's a high 'interchange penalty'. So I wouldn't regard a low level of demand for a very unattractive journey requiring interchange as a good indicator of demand for a rail service that people could actually walk to.
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« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2019, 06:51:30 pm »

Stonehouse Bristol Road is at the western end of Stonehouse, which is the westernmost town in the Stroud Valleys. There's a long string of places most of which are way too far to walk and the bus service is not too good, so unless you drive there (I don't know how much room there would be for a car park) or get a lift, you're probably dependent anyway on a Swindon to Gloucester train then a walk through the town – if you're coming from Chalford, Brimscombe, Sapperton, Thrupp, etc. I presume people further east who would get Kemble services would change via Swindon. From that point of view, a local service reversing at Standish junction would make sense – if it could be made regular enough and if it wouldn't get in the way of running other services using that junction.
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grahame
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« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2019, 08:55:26 pm »

I was impressed with both Robert's depth of study of issues;  issues raised by Bmblbzzz, by mjones and by Robin Summerhill are all noted.  We did talk / hear of buses - and their failure - as shuttles, through from Cam and from Dursley to Cam & Dursley.   Of car parking for the new station, space availability, proportions of people who walk to a typical station, how it would differ, etc, here an how that journey would be made attractive.  I don't know the full stack up, of course ... but it sounds rather like others do.
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Robin Summerhill
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« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2019, 09:00:34 pm »

Quote from: mjones
That is a long way to travel by bus to catch an infrequent local train service. It would be very uncompetitive in journey time with driving and have limited benefit over taking the bus all the way to  Bristol; which would avoid the risk of missed connections. In transport planning terms there's a high 'interchange penalty'. So I wouldn't regard a low level of demand for a very unattractive journey requiring interchange as a good indicator of demand for a rail service that people could actually walk to.

I think you are overstating your case somewhat, especially the "infrequent local train service" element. Whilst I agree that the service to Cam & Dursley isn't Bakerloo Line frequency, it is hourly virtually clock face in both directions, and there are people who post on this forum who would give their right arm for a frequency like that for their local station. And you know who I have in mind whem I wrote that!!

I agree that the existig bus service leaves a lot to be desired, and said as much in my last post. But it is only just over 5 miles betwen Burdett Road and Cam & Dursley by the most direct route (via Stanley and Frocester) and about 8 miles using the main A38. In 1963 the Bristol Omnibus Company service 461 was doing Stonehouse Oldends Lane to Coaley Junction in about 22 minutes; these days it takes Stagecoach over 30 with their diversion to Slimbridge.

To clarify, I am not saying "don't reopen Bristol Road period." What I am saying is that a direct bus service that connected with all trains would at the very least test the market to see if there was a latent demand. Whilst people who read and cotribute to forums like these will generall prefer rail reopenings to anything else, the politicians and whoever else has to pay for these things will want to make sure that it is worth doing. This would be a way to find out.

All that said, I feel it is unlikely that Bristol Road will ever reopen at its former location. All the land on both sides has been redeveloped. Knocking down real state the build a car park is not sometghing that will cheer up the NIMBYs, so thaty won't happen. A quick squint at Google Street View and Google Maps suggests that the southern side of Bristol Road might be more suitable today.
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mjones
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« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2019, 10:17:41 pm »

I am  not criticising the rail service; on the contrary I am sure it would attract additional  users if  a new station were provided. My point  was that you cannot extrapolate potential demand on the basis that there is not sufficient demand to run a connecting  bus service to a station 5 to 8 miles away.  Buses do not provide a large modal share to most stations outside urban areas. The inconvenience of interchange is a very significant barrier, much higher than for changes of train. Punctuality and reliability are perceived to be much worse;  real time information is usually non existent.

 That isn't to say that a good connecting bus service couldn't or shouldn't be provided (such things are commonplace in countries that recognise that market forces alone don't provide a good transport system). However I wouldn't expect even a well designed bus service to  attract more than a small proportion of the number of people who would use the rail service if they didn't have to catch a bus first. The journey time will inevitably be a lot less competitive.
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grahame
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« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2019, 07:01:04 am »

I don't believe that a bus service would test the demand in both directions.   If a service thrived, good - proof for Bristol Road though I'm sure we would be asked whether the station was then needed.  But actually it would be only testing one of the flows, with an interchange hurdle that would put off most people even if it operated well, cheaply and at the right time.  So if it failed it really would not provide evidence against the station.

A very high percentage of passengers start their journey on foot to a station. Then you have park and ride (park a car or a cycle) and kiss and ride; typically further connecting public transport comes in much lower in percentage terms, obvious exceptions as diverse as Paddington and Lymington Pier.

A valley bus service taken to Cam and Dursely in time for the southbound service at :50 (so arrivng there at :42?) and retuning at :16 (after the arrival of the northbund service) - those are daytime clockfaces from next month also gives a clue as to another problem ... not exactly efficient with the bus.  Now - if southbound trains were at :20 as well as :50, and northbound at :12 and :42, a bus service could usefully turn around from a :12 arrival to a :16 departure ... but to rely on it people would then want every train connected and a half hourly bus!

One of the beauties of a train service is the ability within the franchise system for you to build your daily life around it as a guarantee.  One of the beauties of a bus service (for the operator) is the ability to alter or withdraw it at 72 days notice if it's not making enough of a profit, without the need to provide any alternative for the people who have risked setting up their lifestyle such that they rely on it.
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« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2019, 09:27:26 am »

Good luck with your campaign.

I would have thought that given the proximity to the M5/A419, building an Oxford Parkway-style station with large car park would have enormous potential to take north and south-bound commuter traffic from the M5 and out of city centres. Whilst it might not be very PC to do anything that encourages car journeys, ultimately it will build traffic on the line and a business case both for S-Bahn-style services between Bristol and Cheltenham/Gloucester, and electrification.

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