Keith Turley, David Tozer & Steve Widdowson,
Copyright Dave Tozer
As you know, the Secretary of State for Transport delayed signing the DCO (Development Consent Order) until a revised budget and funding statement had been submitted. This has now been done, with North Somerset and the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) each committing a further £10 million and the Department for Transport contributing a further £15.6 million, taking the total project budget to £151.6 million. This is excellent news and shows the level of commitment to the project from all three key partners.
If you are wondering why so much extra funding is needed, the impact of inflation, which will now be much higher than when the 2019 budget was set, will account for at least £12 million; the year’s delay to the DCO and extending the project by a year probably has a similar financial impact.
What happens now is that the Secretary of State has up to 3 months to approve the DCO. This may well happen sooner and will be a very significant moment. This will allow work to start on the detailed design – GRIP 5 in the Network Rail process - which will then enable the final, very detailed, full business case to be produced by early 2024, after which work can begin on acquiring the necessary land and then reconstructing the line.
As ever, the long slow process - involving huge amounts of work behind the scenes - is frustrating for everyone but progress is being made and we look forward to celebrating the signing of the DCO and hearing more about what happens next at our AGM on Tuesday 6 December.
Everyone that we have spoken to - MetroWest, WECA, North Somerset Council and local MPs – is absolutely confident that the project will be delivered, just once again a bit later than we had expected. Indeed, with £31 million already spent it is difficult to see how any other outcome could be acceptable!
Portishead Railway Group