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Sea Mills railway station

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Sea Mills National Rail
Sea Mills railway station MMB 29.jpg
PlaceSea Mills
Local authorityBristol
Coordinates51°28′48″N 2°38′59″W / 51.4799°N 2.6498°W / 51.4799; -2.6498Coordinates: 51°28′48″N 2°38′59″W / 51.4799°N 2.6498°W / 51.4799; -2.6498
Grid referenceST549758
Station codeSML
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*
2014/15Increase 64,512
2015/16Decrease 61,696
2016/17Increase 62,162
2017/18Decrease 54,484
2018/19Decrease 52,630
6 March 1865Station opened
1906-07Station rebuilt and second platform opened
19 October 1970Reduced to single track
National RailUK railway stations
  • Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Sea Mills from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.

Sea Mills railway station is on the Severn Beach Line and serves the district of Sea Mills and nearby Westbury on Trym in Bristol, England. It is 6 miles (9.7 km) from Bristol Temple Meads, situated at the confluence of the River Avon and River Trym and near the A4 Bristol Portway. Its three letter station code is SML. The station has a single platform which serves trains in both directions. As of 2015 it is managed by Great Western Railway, which is the third franchise to be responsible for the station since privatisation in 1997. They provide all train services at the station, mainly a train every forty minutes in each direction between Bristol Temple Meads and Avonmouth.

The station was opened in 1865 by the Bristol Port Railway and Pier, and had a single platform. It later became part of the Clifton Extension Railway, and had a second platform built. The station was expanded over the years, and at one point had four porters staffing it. However the Severn Beach Line declined over the latter half of the twentieth century and by the 1970s the station had no staff and only one platform. Services however have increased since 2000.


The station is located in the Sea Mills area of Bristol, and additionally serves residents of Stoke Bishop. The surrounding area is mostly residential, with allotments to the west and a small football ground to the north. The station is less than 100 metres (110 yd) from the River Avon to the west, and directly south of a small harbour at the mouth of the River Trym, which the railway crosses on a bridge. The station has road access to the east from Sea Mills Lane, which runs parallel to the Trym, and can also be accessed via a footpath along the Avon to the west. The A4 Bristol Portway is less than 200 metres (220 yd) east of the station, and crosses the railway south of the station.[1] The station is on the Severn Beach Line from Bristol Temple Meads to Severn Beach, 6 miles 0 chains (9.7 km) from Temple Meads and 7 miles 43 chains (12.1 km) from Severn Beach.[2][3][note 1] It is the sixth station from Temple Meads. The next station towards Temple Meads is Clifton Down; the next towards Severn Beach is Shirehampton.[4]

The station is on an alignment of approximately 160 degrees, curving towards the south.[1] There is a single 118-yard (108 m)-long platform which serves trains in both directions, situated on the east side of the track.[5] The station's western platform was abandoned in 1970 and is overgrown. A user-worked level crossing at the north end of the station allows vehicles and pedestrians to cross the railway, alternatively pedestrians may cross the line using a footpath which goes under the bridge over the River Trym.[6]

Facilities at the station are minimal – there is a brick shelter and a few seats. Timetable information is provided; help points show next train information and allow users to contact railway staff. There is no ticket office or other means for buying or collecting tickets, nor is there any car park or cycle storage facility.[7] The nearest bus stops are 300 metres (330 yd) away on the A4 Portway.[8]

The line through Sea Mills has a speed limit of 30 miles per hour (48 km/h) for locomotive-hauled trains and 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for diesel multiple units. The line handles less than 5 million train tonnes per year, has a loading gauge of W6 and a route availability of 7.[5][9] In the 2012/13 financial year, approximately 58,000 passengers used Sea Mills station, making it the 1,863rd busiest station in the country and the tenth busiest within the Bristol unitary authority area. This was an increase of almost 70% from the 2002-03 financial year, and reflected a general rise in usage of the Severn Beach Line.[10][11][note 2]


Services at Sea Mills are all operated by Great Western Railway, using mainly diesel Class 166 Turbo units.[12][13] On Monday to Friday, three trains every two hours run from Bristol Temple Meads to Avonmouth, with one extended to St Andrew's Road and Severn Beach, giving a service at Sea Mills of one train in each direction every 40 minutes. Most services start at Bristol, but one evening service to Avonmouth begins at Weston-super-Mare. On Saturdays there is a similar level of service, but more trains continue to Severn Beach. Sunday sees a roughly hourly service to and from Bristol, with only two services extending to Severn Beach, except during the May–September timetable period when all services are extended. The first and last Sunday trains towards Bristol are extended to Taunton via Weston-super-Mare, and there are similar workings in the other direction.[14]

As Clifton Down is the Severn Beach Line's passing point, trains to Avonmouth usually arrive roughly ten minutes after trains to Bristol. Most trains call at all stations, but some services omit Lawrence Hill. The typical journey time to Bristol Temple Meads is roughly 25 minutes, and 10 minutes to Avonmouth.[14] In 2012, the single fare to Clifton Down or Severn Beach was £1.50, and £3 return for the whole line.[15]

Preceding station National Rail National Rail Following station
Shirehampton   Great Western Railway
Severn Beach Line
  Clifton Down


The station building was constructed in 1906,[6] but is now a private property unconnected to the railway.

The station was opened on 6 March 1865 when services began on the Bristol Port Railway and Pier (BPRP), a self-contained railway which ran along the north bank of the River Avon to a deep water pier on the Severn Estuary at Avonmouth. The route was 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge single track, with Sea Mills initially the first station along the line, 2 miles 01 chain (3.2 km) from the southern terminus at Hotwells.[2][16][17] A single 150 feet (46 m)-long uncovered platform was provided on the north side of the line, with a wooden building containing the booking office and porter's office. The station staff consisted of a stationmaster with a porter being brought in from Hotwells when needed. A south-facing goods siding was provided, but the station mostly dealt with passengers and parcels. The initial service was six trains per day in each direction.[17]

The BPRP ran into trouble by 1871 when the terminal pier at Avonmouth became difficult to use due to a build-up of silt. With no prospect of a proper dock being funded without a connection to the national rail network, the Clifton Extension Railway (CER) was approved. This was a joint venture by the BPRP, Great Western Railway and Midland Railway which ran from Sneyd Park Junction, 21 chains (420 m) south of Sea Mills, via Clifton Down, to join up with the national network at Narroways Hill Junction.[2][17] The link opened in 1877, but only for goods trains: Colonel William Yolland, the chief inspector of British railways, considered the platforms at Sea Mills to be too short for passenger interchange, as they were 250 feet (76 m) shorter than at any station on the CER. Rather than build a new interchange station at Sneyd Park Junction, the platforms at Sea Mills were extended to 300 feet (91 m) at the expense of the BPRP. The goods siding was also removed at this time, as Yolland had expressed concern that the points were not interlocked. The route from Sneyd Park Junction to Clifton Down was subsequently cleared for passenger use on 3 August 1878, but the Midland and Great Western Railways did not think the BPRP track was in a suitable condition and so refused to run any passenger trains beyond Clifton Down. Services along the BPRP however increased to eight trains per day in each direction from 1877, and then to ten each way by 1887.[17] From 1 September 1885, when passenger services along the link finally started, the Great Western offered six trains per day each direction between Avonmouth and Bristol Temple Meads. Fearing competition, the BPRP did not allow passengers to use GWR services between its stations. The Midland Railway did not run any passenger services beyond Clifton Down, apart from a one-month trial service in September 1885.[18] Despite the increased traffic, the BPRP suffered financially, and was taken over by the CER in 1890.[17]

A train towards Avonmouth passes through Sea Mills circa 1963. The platform this train is using would be taken out of use in 1970.

Following the takeover, a new stationmaster's house was built at Sea Mills, at a cost of £240. The stationmaster is recorded as having kept a variety of farm animals and sold eggs to passengers.[6] Increased levels of traffic saw the line through Sea Mills doubled in the early 1900s,[18] and the opportunity was taken to rebuild the station. A second platform opened on 6 January 1907 to the west of the tracks to serve northbound trains. The original platform now exclusively served southbound trains, and was lengthened to 330 feet (100 m), the same length as the new platform. A station building was constructed on the original platform in a domestic style, with an arched terracotta entrance, spar-covered walls and a high-pitched tiled roof. The building contained a booking hall, booking office, toilets and a ladies' waiting room. A smaller building on the northbound platform contained a general waiting room. The subway under the bridge over the River Trym was also built at this time, with the porter's job being expanded to include washing the rubbish out of the subway after high tide, for which the railway provided a hosepipe and Wellington boots.[6] By 1910 there were 17 trains from Bristol to Avonmouth and 15 back, increasing to 21 and 19 respectively by 1920, though not all stopped at Sea Mills. The station was completely closed on Sundays.[17]

After the First World War, construction of the Bristol Portway along the Avon Gorge necessitated the closure of the line from Sneyd Park Junction to Hotwells, with trains along it ceasing on 3 July 1922. By this point there were nine trains per day from Hotwells, and eight return. To compensate for the loss of service, the Great Western provided an additional four trains daily towards Bristol and six toward Avonmouth. In 1923, grouping resulted in the Midland Railway being absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS), and the line continued in a joint arrangement between the Great Western and the LMS. From 1928 many trains to Avonmouth were extended to Severn Beach.[17] By 1947, just before the railways were nationalised, there were 33 services each direction between Avonmouth and Temple Meads, with 18 on Sundays.[18] Some trains made circular trips to and from Temple Meads via Clifton Down and Henbury or Pilning.[6][15]

A First Great Western Class 143 Pacer DMU calls at Sea Mills with a train for Bristol Temple Meads in 2008.

When the railways were nationalised in 1948, services at Sea Mills came under the aegis of the Western Region of British Railways. Staffing by this point had increased to two porters and two lad porters, managed by the stationmaster at Shirehampton. By 1961 this was reduced to two porters, then to one in 1965. Service levels had decreased slightly by 1955 to 28 towards Avonmouth and 29 towards Bristol, but the services were at regular intervals.[17] Passenger numbers however dropped sharply in 1961 as the result of a fare increase, and so in 1962 a new reduced timetable was enacted, which lost more passengers. A year later in 1963, the Beeching report suggested the complete withdrawal of services along the line, but ultimately only those beyond Severn Beach or via Henbury were withdrawn. From 17 July 1967 all staffing was withdrawn from stations along the line, including Sea Mills, with tickets issued by the train guard.[17] The general reduction in passenger traffic, as well as the transfer of Avonmouth goods traffic to the Henbury Loop Line, allowed the removal of the second track from 19 October 1970, with all services using the original, eastern platform. The station building was sold, and in 2005 was being used by an engineering firm.[6] By 1974, service had reduced to 19 trains per day in each direction.[17]

British Rail was split into business-led sectors in the 1980s, at which time operations at Sea Mills passed to Regional Railways. At this time, all trains ran to Severn Beach, but the service pattern was irregular.[15] This changed in 1995 when an hourly timetable was introduced for peak times, but northbound services were terminated at Avonmouth. There was no Sunday service.[18][19]

When the railway was privatised in 1997, local services were franchised to Wales & West,[20] which was succeeded by Wessex Trains, an arm of National Express, in 2001.[21] Following action by Friends of Severn Beach Railway (FOSBR) and a string of protests, services had increased to 10 per day in each direction by 2005,[6] with Bristol City Council providing a subsidy to Wessex Trains.[22] The Wessex franchise was amalgamated with the Great Western franchise into the Greater Western franchise from 2006, and responsibility passed to First Great Western, a subsidiary company of FirstGroup, rebranded as Great Western Railway in 2015.[23][24][25][26] A minimum service requirement was written into the franchise agreement, ensuring an hourly service along the line, and this has since been increased to three trains every two hours (24 trains per day).[19][27][28] Sunday services to Severn Beach were restored in 2010.[29]

Preceding station Historical railways Following station
Shirehampton   Bristol Port Railway and Pier
Line and station closed.
  Great Western Railway
Clifton Extension Railway
  Great Western Railway
Clifton Extension Railway
  Hotwells Halt
Line and station closed.
Shirehampton   Great Western Railway
Clifton Extension Railway
  Clifton Down
  Western Region of British Railways
Severn Beach Line
  Regional Railways
Severn Beach Line
  Wales & West
Severn Beach Line
  Wessex Trains
Severn Beach Line


A First Great Western Class 150 Sprinter DMU calls at Sea Mills with a train for Severn Beach in 2014. Trains such as these displaced the Pacer DMUs which had previously operated the line.

First Great Western declined a contractual option to continue the Greater Western passenger franchise (of which services at Sea Mills are a part) beyond 2013, citing a desire for a longer-term contract due to the impending upgrade to the Great Western Main Line.[25] The franchise was put out to tender,[30][31][32] but the process was halted and later scrapped due to the fallout from the collapse of the InterCity West Coast franchise competition.[33] A two-year franchise extension until September 2015 was agreed in October 2013,[34][35] and subsequently extended until March 2019.[36][37][38]

With the coming upgrade to the Great Western Main Line, the main line from London to Bristol is due to be electrified by 2016.[39] However, the electrification will not extend beyond the main lines, so Sea Mills will continue to be served by diesel trains, with the current "Sprinter" units expected to be replaced by Class 165 and 166 "Turbo" units.[40][41] Stephen Williams, MP for Bristol West; and the group Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways supports the electrification being extended to the Severn Beach Line.[42][43]

Improved services at Sea Mills are called for as part of the Greater Bristol Metro scheme, a rail transport plan which aims to enhance transport capacity in the Bristol area.[44][45] There is an aspiration for half-hourly services, with trains towards Bristol terminating alternately at Portishead and Bath Spa, however due to the large sections of the Severn Beach Line which are single-track and to the congested main line from Temple Meads, such frequency is not currently feasible.[46][47] The enhancement scheme was given the go-ahead in July 2012 as part of the City Deal, whereby local councils would be given greater control over money by the government.[48] There are also calls for the reopening of the Henbury Loop Line, which could allow a direct service from Sea Mills to Bristol Parkway via Avonmouth.[49] Plans for a loop were rejected by the West of England Joint Transport Board, however Bristol City Councillors voted to send the decision back to the board for further discussion.[50][51] There are also calls for the second platform at Sea Mills to be reinstated as a passing loop or as part of a restoration of the whole line to double track.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Railways in the United Kingdom are, for historical reasons, measured in miles and chains. There are 80 chains to the mile.
  2. ^ Annual estimated passenger usage based on sales of tickets in stated financial year(s) which end or originate at Sea Mills, from Office of Rail and Road statistics. Methodology may vary year on year.


  1. ^ a b OS Landranger Map 172 – Bristol & Bath. Southampton: Ordnance Survey. 2008. ISBN 978-0-319-22914-9.
  2. ^ a b c Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: CNX Clifton Extension Line". Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  3. ^ Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: AMB Avonmouth Branch". Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  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 "Network Capability – Baseline Declaration: (1) Track and Route mileage: (2) Line-speeds: Western Route" (PDF). Network Rail. 1 April 2009. p. 179. Retrieved 11 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Oakley, Mike (2006). Bristol Railway Stations 1840–2005. Redcliffe Press. pp. 8–11, 100–102. ISBN 1-904537-54-5.
  7. ^ "Station facilities for Sea Mills (SML)". National Rail. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  8. ^ "Sea Mills Station: Onward Travel Information" (PDF). Network Rail. 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Route 13: Great Western Main Line" (PDF). Network Rail. 2006. Figures 3 and 8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2014.
  10. ^ "Station Usage Estimates 2002/03". Office of Rail and Road. Archived from the original on 4 September 2013. Retrieved 23 September 2013.
  11. ^ "Station Usage Estimates 2012/13". Office of Rail and Road. Retrieved 27 October 2014.
  12. ^ "Massive increase in Bristol train seats begins today" (Press release). FirstGroup. 3 July 2017. Retrieved 5 July 2017.
  13. ^ "Modern trains and new technology for Bristol rail passengers". Global Railway Review. Russell Publishing. 11 July 2017. Retrieved 14 August 2017.
  14. ^ a b "Central 6 - Bristol to Severn Beach: The Severn Beach Line" (PDF). Great Western Railway. May 2015. Retrieved 22 September 2015.
  15. ^ a b c Salveson, Paul (June 2012). Abell, Paul (ed.). "Severn Beach: Not your typical branch line!". Today's Railways UK. Sheffield: Platform 5 (126): 42–47.
  16. ^ Deaves, Phil. "Engineers' Line References: HAA Hotwells and Avonmouth Line". Retrieved 22 October 2014.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Maggs, Colin (1975). The Bristol Port Railway and Pier. The Oakwood Press. pp. 3–7, 12, 15–18, 23–24, 47–51.
  18. ^ a b c d Maggs, Colin G (2008) [First published 1981]. Rail Centres: Bristol (#21) (3rd ed.). Nottingham: Booklaw Publications. pp. 15–17, 40–42, 107–108. ISBN 1-901945-30-8.
  19. ^ a b "Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways making rail difference". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 25 September 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  20. ^ Deaves, Phil (5 May 2015). "UK railway franchises". Retrieved 6 May 2015.
  21. ^ "Wales and West". Wales & West. Archived from the original on 14 March 2012. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  22. ^ "Lobby to save Severn Beach line". BBC News. BBC. 27 February 2006. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  23. ^ "Wessex Trains". The Iron Road: Railway Photography by Scott Borthwick. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  24. ^ "FirstGroup wins rail franchises". BBC News. BBC. 13 December 2005. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  25. ^ a b "First Great Western bids for longer rail franchise deal". BBC News. BBC. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  26. ^ "The Great Western Railway is back in business". Railnews. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  27. ^ "Campaigners' picnic marks rail launch". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 17 July 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  28. ^ "Campaigners call for quick railway action". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  29. ^ "Sunday service puts smiles on faces of rail enthusiasts". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 24 May 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
  30. ^ Haigh, Philip (18 April 2012). "First leads a field of seven bidding for rail franchises". Rail. Peterborough: Bauer Media (694): 8–9.
  31. ^ "Great Western franchise to be extended". Railnews. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
  32. ^ "New Great Western franchise to deliver new express trains" (Press release). Department for Transport. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  33. ^ "Great Western London to south Wales rail contest scrapped". BBC News. BBC. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  34. ^ "First celebrates last-minute Great Western deal". Railnews. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  35. ^ "First Great Western retains Wales and west rail franchise". BBC News. BBC. 3 October 2013. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  36. ^ "First Great Western offered new franchise deal". BBC News. BBC. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  37. ^ "FirstGroup wins Great Western contract extension". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  38. ^ "Updated franchise schedule signals GW extension". Railnews. 10 October 2014. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  39. ^ "Modernising the Great Western" (PDF). Network Rail. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 April 2013. Retrieved 9 June 2012.
  40. ^ "Bristol to London line to be electrified". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  41. ^ Clinnick, Richard (15 April 2015). "How the West will win with new trains". Rail. Peterborough: Bauer Media (772): 58–59. Retrieved 12 October 2015.
  42. ^ "Benefits of Bristol to London high-speed rail link 'must go beyond just mainline'". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 3 March 2011. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  43. ^ "FoSBR Newsletter" (PDF). Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. Autumn 2011. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  44. ^ White, James (13 March 2009). "Item 04: Greater Bristol Metro" (PDF). West of England Partnership. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  45. ^ "Campaign for trains from Bristol Temple Meads every half hour". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 17 January 2012. Archived from the original on 20 January 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  46. ^ "FoSBR Newsletter" (PDF). Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. April 2014. Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  47. ^ "Transport Minister hears calls for better Bristol train service". This is Bristol. Northcliffe Media. 17 October 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  48. ^ Ribbeck, Michael (6 July 2012). "£100 million Bristol Metro train network by 2016". The Post, Bristol. Northcliffe Media. Archived from the original on 8 July 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
  49. ^ "Our Case". Friends of Suburban Bristol Railways. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
  50. ^ "Transport chiefs drop Henbury Loop plan". BBC News. BBC. 17 July 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  51. ^ "Huge majority back rethink on decision for Henbury Loop at a special meeting". Bristol Post. Local World. 28 August 2015. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  52. ^ Wood, Dave (18 February 2013). "On Track: Dave Wood's column on railways". The Post, Bristol. Local World. Archived from the original on 24 October 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2014.