Pilning railway station

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Pilning National Rail
Pilning railway station MMB 02.jpg
Local authoritySouth Gloucestershire
Coordinates51°33′23″N 2°37′35″W / 51.5563°N 2.6265°W / 51.5563; -2.6265Coordinates: 51°33′23″N 2°37′35″W / 51.5563°N 2.6265°W / 51.5563; -2.6265
Grid referenceST566844
Station codePIL
Managed byGreat Western Railway
Number of platforms1
DfT categoryF2
Live arrivals/departures, station information and onward connections
from National Rail Enquiries
Annual rail passenger usage*
2013/14Decrease 88
2014/15Decrease 68
2015/16Decrease 46
2016/17Increase 230
2017/18Increase 478
Original companyGreat Western Railway
Pre-groupingGreat Western Railway
Post-groupingGreat Western Railway
1 December 1886 (1886-12-01)Opened as Pilning
9 July 1928Renamed Pilning High Level
6 May 1968Renamed Pilning
5 November 2016Westbound platform closed
National RailUK railway stations
* Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Pilning from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.
170433 at Edinburgh Waverley.JPG UK Railways portal
Coal train climbing up from the Severn Tunnel in 1961

Pilning railway station is a minor station in Pilning, South Gloucestershire, England. It is 116.5 miles (187.5 km) from London Paddington and is the last station on the English side before the Severn Tunnel through to Wales.

In 2015 Pilning was the sixth least used station in the United Kingdom, with just 68 passenger entries/exits recorded for the entire year.[1]

In 2016 it was announced that the footbridge would be removed to allow for the electrification of the Great Western Main Line, that the "down" (westbound) platform would be closed and that there would no longer be any Wales-bound services calling at the station.[2]


Pilning railway station is located in the Pilning area of South Gloucestershire, 2 miles (3.2 km) north of the Bristol conurbation. The surrounding area is primarily farmland, with the village itself some 0.75 miles (1.2 km) further west.[3] The station is on the South Wales Main Line between Bristol Parkway and Newport (South Wales), 9 miles 43 chains (15.3 km) from Bristol Temple Meads and 126 miles 51 chains (203.8 km) from London Paddington via Bristol Parkway.[4][5][note 1] West of Pilning, the railway descends into a cutting and then into the Severn Tunnel, emerging in Wales at Severn Tunnel Junction, 6 miles 76 chains (11.2 km) away.[3][5] The next station to the east is Patchway, 3 miles 46 chains (5.8 km) distant.[5]

The railway through Pilning has three tracks: from north to south these are the Up Tunnel towards Bristol; the Down Tunnel towards Wales; and then the Down Pilning Loop, also towards Wales. A fourth track, the Up Pilning Loop, ends just west of the station. All three tracks through the station are unidirectional. The two Tunnel lines have a 90 miles per hour (140 km/h) speed limit, while the loop has a speed limit of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h). Despite there being three tracks, Pilning only has a single platform, Platform 1, on the north side of the line. This is 120 metres (130 yd) long and serves trains towards Bristol. The old down platform, Platform 2, sits between the Down Tunnel and Down Pilning Loop, but is no longer accessible to the public. It is 121 metres (132 yd) long.[6][7] There is an old brick station building on Platform 1 but it is not in railway use.[8]

Facilities at Pilning are extremely basic - the platform, which is covered by CCTV, has a bus stop-style shelter on it but no seats.[8](p113)[7][9] Customer help points on the platform and timetable boards provide service information, but there are no facilities for buying tickets. There are no audio announcements at the station, but there is a free car park with 10 spaces and four bicycle stands, and also a payphone.[7][10] The station sits on an embankment, with a bridge over the road east of the station and over an irrigation channel at the west.[3] Access is via a long ramp from the main road. A sign points the way up the ramp, but there is no British Rail double arrow sign.[9]


Prior to the timetable change in December 2006, Pilning was served by one train each way on weekdays. From December 2006 First Great Western decided to cut the service to just one train a week in each direction on Saturdays only. The eastbound departure is the 08:35 service to Taunton via Bristol Temple Meads and Weston-super-Mare. The westbound departure was the 15:41 service to Cardiff Central, calling at Severn Tunnel Junction, Newport and Cardiff Central. Both services were booked for a Class 150 Sprinter unit.

From 5 November 2016 the 15:41 to Cardiff Central was withdrawn and replaced by a 13:34 service to Taunton, due to the closure of the Westbound/Down Platform; from 1 January 2018 the 13:34 stop was replaced by a 15:34 stop, also on a service to Taunton.

In the event of engineering works, rail replacement buses do not call at Pilning, and taxis are provided instead.[11] In the case of the engineering works between Bristol Temple Meads and Stapleton Road stations in 2018, trains that called at the station were diverted to Gloucester, via Bristol Parkway.

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Severn Tunnel Junction   Great Western Railway
Cardiff Central - Taunton
(Saturdays only, limited service)


Pilning railway station first opened on 8 September 1863 when services began on the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway (BSWUR), which ran from Bristol Temple Meads to New Passage Pier, north of Bristol on the banks of the River Severn. At New Passage, passengers were transferred to a ferry to cross the Severn to continue on into Wales. The line, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, was built as single track 7 ft 14 in (2,140 mm) broad gauge.[12](p58) Pilning was 9 miles 40 chains (15.3 km) from Temple Meads, initially the fifth station along the line,[note 2] between Patchway 3 miles 3 chains (4.9 km) east and New Passage 1 mile 76 chains (3.1 km) east.[5][14][15] There was a single platform on the north side of the line, and a siding to the south.[16] Few details are known about this iteration of the station, nor are there any photos from its time in use.[8](p114) The station was on the road between Easter Compton, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south, and the main part of Pilning 1 mile (1.6 km) west. The immediate area was farmland with little in the way of housing, although there was a pub, The Plough, across the road from the station. The line crossed the road at a level crossing beyond the east end of the station, with the level crossing operated from the station using levers.[17][18] There were initially six trains per day on weekdays in each direction, with three trains per day on Sundays.[16] The BSWUR was amalgamated with the Great Western Railway (GWR), which had from the beginning operated all BSWUR services, in 1868; and in 1873 the line was converted to 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge.[12](p60)

Although the line made travel from Bristol to Wales easier, the change from train to ferry to train was inconvenient, plans to build a tunnel under the Severn were considered even before the railway opened.[12](p59)[19] Parliamentary permission was gained in 1872, with construction beginning in 1873.[20] GWR chairman Daniel Gooch and other directors visited Pilning in 1884 as part of an inspection tour of the works.[21] The route to the tunnel diverged from the New Passage line 35 chains (0.70 km) east of Pilning, necessitating the building of a replacement station on the new line approximately 100 yards (90 m) south of the original.[14][8](pp112-114)[17] The new station opened with the first passenger services through the tunnel on 1 December 1886. The New Passage branch, including the original station, was closed to passengers the same day, despite requests from local residents that a reduced service continue to operate.[8](pp112-114)[22] The branch did continue to see occasional freight use, with the main traffic being coal to the Severn Tunnel pumping station.[16]

The new station was built on an embankment, with the line crossing the road via a bridge east of the level crossing, and the entrance adjacent to the old level crossing. To the west the line went into a cutting and thence the Severn Tunnel. The station embankment also crossed a small irrigation channel at Gumhurn Bridge.[17] It was 3 chains (60 m) further along the line from Bristol at 9 miles 43 chains (15.3 km). The next station west was now Severn Tunnel Junction, 6 miles 76 chains (11.2 km) away the other side of the Severn, while Patchway was now 3 miles 46 chains (5.8 km) to the east, having been resited.[5][14][8](p111)[23](p209) There were two platforms, either side of the two running lines, although double-tracking to Patchway was only completed in 1887.[8](p112)[24] The westbound goods loop south of the station would be completed in 1905, and the eastbound loop just west of the station in 1906.[24] The northern platform served eastbound trains, the southern one was for westbound trains. The main station building was on the northern platform, a standard GWR design with chimneys and a fretted canopy. There was a smaller matching waiting room on the westbound platform.[8](p112) The platforms were wooden, with gas lamps and wooden bench seats.[12](p71) A large covered footbridge connected the platforms east of the buildings.[8](p112)

The station had a goods yard to the south-east of the station. As the final station before the Severn Tunnel, the yard was used to inspect wagons before they entered the tunnel.[8](p112) Heavier trains had a special brake van added, as the standard Great Western brake van had an open veranda and thus exposed the guards to choking fumes while in the tunnel.[12](pp73-76) A cattle pen and loading bay was situated at the east end of the northern platform.[8](p112) The station had two signal boxes, Station Box, which by 1971 had 54 levers, was sited at the western end of the southern platform; Junction Box was 0.25 miles (0.40 km) east at the eastern end of the goods yard and had 68 levers.[24][17]

In 1900, the GWR reopened the line through the original Pilning station, branching from the original route near New Passage and running along the banks of the Severn to Avonmouth. The original station did not reopen as the route was only used for freight trains.[25]

Following inspections in 1927,[26] in 1928 passenger services were started on the line to Avonmouth, and a new station, Pilning Low Level, was opened on the site of the original Pilning station. The station on the Severn Tunnel line was renamed Pilning High Level.

Pilning continued to have two stations from 1928 to 1964, when the line from Pilning to Severn Beach was closed. Pilning High Level station was then renamed Pilning.

From 1924 to 1966 Pilning High Level was the terminus of a car transport service through the tunnel to Severn Tunnel Junction.

The footbridge between the two platforms was demolished by Network Rail on 5 November 2016, as part of the electrification of the South Wales Main Line, as it was too low to allow for the planned overhead electrification.[27][28] Network Rail stated that the usage of the station meant the removal of the bridge would cause minimal impact, and thus did not justify the cost of replacement.[28][29][30] A freedom of information request revealed that £658,000 was saved by not replacing the footbridge, and that a replacement would have cost £1,064,000 for a similar stepped bridge, or around £2,000,000 for an accessible bridge.[31][dubious ] The stepped footbridge at neighbouring Patchway, which was also too low, was replaced by a new accessible bridge. The electrification works made use of the Network Rail compound at Pilning.[32] The removal of the footbridge meant the closure of the westbound platform, with the last train calling on 10 September 2016.[33][34] Due to trains only being able to call in the eastbound direction, a fares easement was implemented to allow westbound travel to Severn Tunnel Junction in order to return eastbound to Pilning, with the westbound service being replaced by a second eastbound service.[7][34]


There have been a number of incidents at Pilning over the years.

  • On 31 May 1874, a seven year old child, Arthur Edward Claypole, and a nurse, Maria Hall, fell from an express train at Pilning. Claypole had been leaning on the door when it came open causing him to fall out, with Hall jumping out after him. Claypole died from the injuries sustained. An insufficient door fastening was cited as the cause of the incident.[35][36]
  • On 26 June 1893, a bottle of unwanted lemon squash was thrown from a passing train at Pilning, smashing against the woodwork of the signal box, causing shards of glass to hit signalman George Hann who suffered severe cuts to his neck and throat.[37]
  • On 15 February 1908, a platelayer was hit by a train near Pilning, sustaining a broken arm.[38]
  • On 27 August 1929, an eastbound goods train was pulling into Pilning when the driver, James Winnicombe of Taunton, collapsed and died.[39][40]
  • In early 1932, railway worker John Holbrook died in the workmen's cabin at Pilning. A verdict of death from natural causes was recorded.[41]
  • At 5am on 9 June 1933, a London, Midland and Scottish Railway excursion train from Worsley to Barnstaple caught fire after passing through the Severn Tunnel. The fire, which started in the restaurant car, spread to two other coaches. The train was stopped at Pilning, where the three burning carriages were removed to a siding and allowed to burn, also setting fire to the grass on the embankment. There were no injuries among the passengers, however an attendant was injured while attempting to rescue property from the affected carriages. The rest of the train continued to Barnstaple and arrived an hour late, however 70 passengers from the affected carriages had to be conveyed by a later train.[42][43]
  • On 17 April 1942, George Daniel Garland, a railway worker, was hit and killed by a train near Pilning. Garland had been part of a work gang spreading ashes on the track when he was hit. Witnesses stated that there had been no lookout, and that the train had not been heard due to high winds.[44]


It has been speculated [45] that a decision was taken to close the station by stealth after the Severnside Stadium housing development stalled. This had been an extensive new housing project near the station and would have provided much commuter traffic from the area.

It was suggested that Severn Beach railway station has a much better service and is in fact nearer to most residential parts of the village of Pilning than Pilning station is; however, Severn Beach is a terminus station, and, unlike Pilning (prior to the removal of the footbridge), does not offer direct services to South Wales. Local residents continuously express their opinion that both Severn Beach and Pilning stations are important and needed.


  1. ^ Railways in the United Kingdom are, for historical reasons, measured in miles and chains. There are 80 chains to the mile.
  2. ^ Intermediate stations were Lawrence Hill, Stapleton Road, Filton and Patchway. Further intermediate stations were opened at Ashley Hill in 1864 and Horfield in 1927.[12](p65)[8](pp69, 111)[13]


  1. ^ "Revealed: Britain's busiest and quietest stations". BBC News. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
  2. ^ "Platform at Gloucestershire Railway Station To Close Amid Great Western Electrification". Bristol Post. Retrieved 11 September 2016.[dead link]
  3. ^ a b c OS Landranger Map 172 – Bristol & Bath. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. 2008. ISBN 978-0-319-22914-9.
  4. ^ Baker, S.K. (2010). Rail Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland (12th ed.). Ian Allan. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-86093-632-9.
  5. ^ a b c d e Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: BSW - Bristol and South Wales Union Line". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Western Route Sectional Appendix Module WR2" (PDF). Network Rail. 5 May 2018. p. 250. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  7. ^ a b c d "Station facilities for Pilning". National Rail Enquiries. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Oakley, Mike (2003). Gloucestershire Railway Stations. Wimbourne, Dorset: The Dovecote Press. pp. 8–10, 69, 104–105, 111–114. ISBN 1-904349-24-2.
  9. ^ a b diamond geezer (12 February 2018). "The least used station in... Gloucestershire". Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  10. ^ "Pilning Station". Time in the Country. Blogspot. 6 May 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  11. ^ "Pilning Station Onward Travel Information" (PDF). National Rail Enquiries. 2018. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Maggs, Colin G (1990). Bristol Railway Panorama. Bath: Millstream Books. pp. 58–76. ISBN 0-948975-22-9.
  13. ^ Oakley, Mike (2006). Bristol Railway Stations 1840–2005. Redcliffe Press. pp. 6, 31, 72, 80, 107. ISBN 1-904537-54-5.
  14. ^ a b c Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: AMB - Avonmouth Branch". Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  15. ^ Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: PNZ - (Pilning and) New Passage Pier Line". Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  16. ^ a b c Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Keith (2004). Branch Lines Around Avonmouth: Hotwells, Severn Beach and via Henbury. Midhurst, Sussex: Middleton Press. ISBN 1-904474-42-X.
  17. ^ a b c d "Gloucestershire LXVII.NE". Ordnance Survey. National Library of Scotland. 1904. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  18. ^ "Grievances" (15 November 1886). "Correspondence to the Editor of the Western Daily Press: The Wants of Avonmouth". Gloucester Journal. Retrieved 29 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  19. ^ "Parliamentary notices". Cardiff Times. 25 November 1864. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  20. ^ "Severn Tunnel". Engineering Timelines. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  21. ^ "The Severn Tunnel: Inspection by Great Western directors". Gloucester Citizen. 28 July 1884. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  22. ^ "Railway to the New Passage: Memorial to the Great Western company". Western Daily Press. 12 July 1886. Retrieved 29 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  23. ^ Butt, R. V. J. (1995). The Directory of Railway Stations: details every public and private passenger station, halt, platform and stopping place, past and present (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. pp. 170, 185, 209. ISBN 978-1-85260-508-7. OCLC 60251199.
  24. ^ a b c Mitchell, Vic & Smith, Kevin (2004). Western Main Lines: Swindon to Newport. Midhurst, Sussex: Middleton Press. ISBN 1 904474 30 6.
  25. ^ Maggs, Colin G (1991). Branch Lines of Gloucestershire. Stroud: Alan Sutton Publishing. p. 134. ISBN 0-86299-959-6.
  26. ^ "Passenger Facilities for Severn Beach". Western Daily Press. 17 June 1927. Retrieved 2 August 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  27. ^ Dixon, Rob (November 2016). "Pilning footbridge demolished" (PDF). Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  28. ^ a b "Diversity Impact Assessment - Great Western Electrification Programme Pilning Station Footbridge" (PDF). Network Rail. February 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  29. ^ Sims, Aaron (30 June 2016). "Rail platform and footbridge set for closure in Pilning". South Cotswolds Gazette. Newsquest. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  30. ^ Sims, Aaron (20 August 2016). "Campaigners speak out against closure of Pilning railway station platform and footbridge". South Cotswolds Gazette. Newsquest. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  31. ^ Dixon, Rob (29 January 2017). "Footnote to the Pilning Footbridge Saga" (PDF). Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  32. ^ "Electrification update" (PDF). Network Rail. 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  33. ^ "Not the last train from Piling" (PDF). Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  34. ^ a b Marshall, Geoff; Pipe, Vicki (2 July 2017). "Pilning - Bonus Video". All the Stations. Retrieved 2 August 2018 – via YouTube.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  35. ^ "Shocking Accident on the Railway". Gloucester Journal. 6 June 1874. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  36. ^ "The fatal accident on the South Wales Union Railway". Western Daily Press. 16 June 1874. Retrieved 2 August 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  37. ^ "Bottle thrown from train". Western Times. 30 June 1893. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  38. ^ "Bottle thrown from train". Wells Journal. 20 February 1908. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  39. ^ "Death on footplate near Bristol". Western Daily Press. 28 August 1929. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  40. ^ "Death on footplate near Bristol". Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser. 4 September 1929. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  41. ^ "Sudden Death". Western Daily Press. 1 April 1932. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  42. ^ "Thrill for 280 excursionists when train catches fire". Birmingham Daily Gazette. 10 June 1933. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  43. ^ "Trip train ablaze in under-river tunnel". Daily Herald. 10 June 1933. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  44. ^ "Man killed by train in Pilning cutting". Western Daily Press. 5 May 1942. Retrieved 22 July 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). Cite uses deprecated parameter |subscription= (help)
  45. ^ SaveTheTrain.Org.UK

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