By James Durie, chief executive of Bristol Chamber & Initiative, Business West
“Let’s face it there is never a good time to shut a railway station that carries around 12 million passenger journeys a year.
“Yet, between Friday 30 March to Tuesday 3 April (inclusive) passengers will not be able to catch or get off trains at Bristol Temple Meads.
“But, before the hand wringing commences, it’s worth noting that the closure is happening for a very valid reason. A bit of short-term pain for long-term gain.
“Since September 2015, Network Rail have been beavering away making infrastructure improvements across the West of England. With passenger numbers on the rise, it’s all about boosting capacity to meet growing demand to ensure we have a railway system that is fit for the future.
“The broader picture is that Network Rail’s Western plan will support the delivery of 140,000 new services each year for passengers, quicker journeys and new connections. A £2bn+ investment – it will drive economic growth, jobs and housing by delivering a better railway for the millions of people who rely on it.
“The work this Easter involves renewing the signals in and around Bristol Temple Meads. That, combined with the addition of two new tracks being laid towards the end of this year, between Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood, will remove a bottleneck, allowing the increase in trains we all want to see.
“From 2019, with passenger trains running every 15 minutes to London and journey times faster than ever, our economy will be better connected to national and international markets which is a huge advantage for businesses. These upgrades will also enable an increase in rail freight operations, lessening the burden on our roads and, again, benefiting our economy.
“This Easter’s resignalling will be the largest ever upgrade of its kind to be undertaken by Network Rail – the sort of behind the scenes stuff that allows for more and more super smart trains, like GWR’s Intercity Express Trains from Hitachi, to come into service.
“And remember, there are plenty of alternatives for getting around during the Easter break, and on that first day back in the office after the long weekend (Tuesday 3 April).
“Rail replacement services will run from Temple Meads to Bath Spa, Bristol Parkway, Weston-super-Mare and Taunton, as well as stations in between. Trains will be running to other destinations from Bristol Parkway, as well as Bath Spa, Weston-super-Mare and Taunton, and bus services across the city will be largely running as usual.
“But why not take this as an opportunity to try something new. Get in the saddle on Bristol-Bath cycle path perhaps?
“Or, if you live in Bristol stay put and fall in love with the city again. There’s plenty going on.
“From music festivals and exhibitions to activities for children, a whole host of Easter events can be viewed on the Visit Bristol website.
“Keep an eye on our website and Twitter posts, following #SignalBristol for more information.”