Light rail in Bristol

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The city of Bristol, United Kingdom has included a light rail transport system in its plans from the 1980s onwards. There has been no light rail in the city since the closure of Bristol Tramways in 1941.


1987: Advanced Transport for Avon[edit]

Plans for a metro system were promoted by then MEP Richard Cottrell, and were unveiled in November 1987 under the title of Advanced Transport for Avon; the first route, from Wapping Wharf to Portishead and Portbury, was due to open by 1991 with the entire system complete by the late 1990s. The Parliamentary bill for the first route received Royal Assent in May 1989, but after objections from the Port of Bristol and Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo, along with financial difficulties, the scheme folded with debts of £3.8 million.[1]

2001–4: Bristol Supertram[edit]

The Bristol Supertram project proposed a light rail line from Bristol city centre to Aztec West, partially running alongside the Great Western Railway line from Temple Meads railway station to Bristol Parkway. The project received Royal Assent, however issues arose between Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire, the latter wishing for the route to be extended to serve Cribbs Causeway. As the extension was deemed unfeasible, South Gloucestershire withdrew support, and in March 2004, Bristol council announced that the Supertram project would be cancelled. This allowed funds that were set aside for the project to be used to cover a projected council tax increase instead.[2] In 2005, an article in the Bristol Evening Post revealed that Bristol City Council had spent £1.5 million on Supertram between 1998 and 2004.[3]

Current status[edit]

In November 2016, the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership began a consultation process on their Transport Vision Summary Document, outlining potential light rail/tram routes from the city centre to Bristol Airport, the eastern and north west fringes of the city, and a route along the A4 road to Bath.[4]

Underground metro plans[edit]

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is proposed to have a light rail line running alongside the pedestrian and cycling paths

In July 2017 a leaked draft of that document, due to be published in October 2017, suggested an underground rail network around the most built-up areas of the city as one of many solutions to congestion equating to £8.9billon.[5] In September 2017, incumbent mayor Marvin Rees vocally supported the creation of an underground line in the city. The service would run from Bristol Airport to Temple Meads, the centre and north of Bristol and then to Cribbs Causeway, and would cost an estimated at £2.5bn.[6] The city council commissioned a £50,000 study to determine the financial viability of the project and Rees has suggested £3m for a geological survey.[7][6] In January 2018 Bristol City Council announced that the project could cost £4 billion for three lines including the initial Airport-city centre project, as well as another heading north-bound and a third heading east.[8]

According to the city’s 2050 vision document, the first mass transit route is hoped to begin construction in 2022 and be completed by 2028, with an entire four-line network complete by 2034. [9]

It is suggested that the eastern route could run as a light rail track alongside the Bristol and Bath Railway Path, which would not have to close.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Supertram vision at end of the line". Bristol Evening Post, archived at LexisNexis. Bristol United Press. 3 June 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2011. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  2. ^ "City tram project to be dropped". BBC News. 30 May 2004.
  3. ^ "Money For Nothing". 16 April 2013.
  4. ^ "West of England Joint Transport Study – Transport Vision Summary Document" (PDF). Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  5. ^ Esme Ashcroft (20 July 2017). "Bristol could get an underground train system - with plans for a line to the airport". Bristol Post. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b "Bristol 'Underground': New transport system proposed for city". BBC News: Bristol. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  7. ^ "Underground light rail studied for Bristol". TransportXtra. 1 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  8. ^ Steven Morris (16 Jan 2018). "Bristol investigates underground system to ease congestion". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  9. ^ "One City Plan - A Plan for Bristol to 2050" (PDF). Retrieved 12 March 2019.
  10. ^