Published 4th September 2012
BRISTOL - First Great Western (FGW) is hosting the 2012 Community Rail Festival at Bristol Temple Meads Station on Saturday 29 September.
Highlights for many will be the chance to travel on a special charter train from Bristol Temple Meads along the Portbury Branch Line, through the Avon Gorge and below Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge.
The line is currently used solely by freight services but is the subject of a re-opening campaign for passenger services. This line may be reopened for passengers as it has been included as an option in the next Greater Western Franchise competition about to be launched by the Government.
The trains depart Bristol Temple Meads at 0905hrs, 1108hrs, 1209hrs, 1512hrs and 1608hrs and each one is limited to carrying 100 passengers. Given that this amount of passenger trains have not run on this line since a series of steam hauled services in 1985, tickets are likely to sell out quickly.
These can only be purchased in advance through the First Great Western website. It is hoped these diesel trains will reach the Bristol Docks railway infrastructure as far as the signalling system allows, just inside the docks.
Bristol Temple Meads is the location for the festival hosting a station gala with stalls, attractions and information, promoting the achievements of the various Community Rail Partnerships throughout the UK. Admission to the event is free.
This railway is a preserved line and runs on selected dates. The next event is over the weekend before the Bristol Festival on Sept 22 and 23. Steam train rides will be offered every 40 minutes between 11am and 5pm. A day ticket is just £4 and the engine scheduled for service is Henbury. This was built by local Bristol locomotive builders ‘Peckett’ and was built in 1937.
It is not known how long this line will be able to offer full rides on the currently available line as some of it is likely to be turned into a guided busway route from next year.
Bristol’s longer preserved railway is the Avon Valley Railway based at Bitton, just outside Bristol. It runs many different themed events such as Thomas, Murder Mystery and Dining trains. The line is several miles long and runs from Oldfield Common to Avon Riverside connecting with river cruises.
The line runs parallel with the Bath to Bristol cycleway and is on the former Midland Railway route the ‘Pines Express’ took until September 1952.Avon Riverside station opened in 2004 and is situated next to the River Avon.
Saturday 8th September 1962 saw the last ever Pines Express working between Bournemouth and Manchester, passing through Bitton. The AVR will be commemorating this event and running a special timetable. This will be based on as closely as possible, the ‘Pines Express’ workings through Bitton.
Both the Up (to Manchester) and Down (to Bournemouth) trains will be recreated with express, non-stop, steam-hauled passenger trains between Avon Riverside and Oldland Common (and vice versa). Also in service will be a DMU railcar operation to help recreate what happened 50 years ago.
FGW staff have raised over £1,000 for Wallace and Gromit's Grand Appeal, The Bristol Children's Hospital Charity. The company has donated a pound to charity for every staff survey that was completed and 1,186 members of staff gave their views. FGW’s Steve Tyler, (central region General Manager) presented the Bristol Children’s Hospital with a cheque for £1,186.
FGW staff have raised almost£1,000 for good causes by selling badges of their region. Drivers and depot staff from Swansea, Gloucester, Westbury, Fratton and Bristol each had a badge made for their place of work, donating all profits from the sale of the depot insignias to charity.
First Great Western Regional Driver Manager Rob Mullen said: “The railway is a fundamental part of the local community and each depot is a small community of its own. So I was looking for a way that our drivers could support a community charity of their choice and create a sense of pride in where people worked. So we built on the badge theme.’’
They designed and sold badges to raise funds for the Railway Children charity and for Help for Heroes.