Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

UK stations
name = Bristol Temple Meads

caption = The main part of the station is covered by a dramatic curved wrought-iron, wood and glass train shed.
manager = First Great Western
locale = Bristol
borough = Bristol
gridref = ST597725
code = BRI
usage0203 = 5.177
usage0405 = 5.641
usage0506 = 6.066
usage0607 = 6.549
platforms = 8 (numbered 1-15)
years = 31 August 1840
events = Opened
years1 = 1871–1878
events1 = Extended
years2 = 1930s
events2 = Extended
years3 = 1965
events3 = Original platforms closed
latitude = 51.449
longitude = -2.580

Bristol Temple Meads railway station is the oldest and largest railway station in Bristol, England. It is an important interchange hub for public transport in Bristol, with bus services to various parts of the city and surrounding districts, and a ferry service to the city centre in addition to the train services. Bristol's other main-line station, Bristol Parkway, is on the northern outskirts of the Bristol conurbation.

It opened on 31 August 1840 as the western terminus of the Great Western Railway from London Paddington station. The whole railway including Temple Meads was the first one designed by the prolific British engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Soon the station was also used by the Bristol and Exeter Railway, the Bristol and Gloucester Railway, the Bristol Harbour Railway and the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway. To accommodate the increasing number of trains the station was expanded in the 1870s by Francis Fox; and again in the 1930s by P E Culverhouse. Brunel's terminus is no longer part of the operational station, instead it currently houses the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum. The historical significance of the station has been noted, and the majority of the site is Grade 1 listed.

Temple Meads is now owned by Network Rail and is operated under a franchise by First Great Western who provide the majority of trains to London, along with local services and inter-urban routes to destinations such as Cardiff, Southampton, Portsmouth and Weymouth. Long-distance services are provided by CrossCountry to destinations as diverse as Plymouth and Penzance in the West of England, Manchester Piccadilly and York in the North, and Edinburgh and Aberdeen in Scotland. A few trains to London Waterloo station are provided by South West Trains.

More than 6.5 million people entered and left the station in the twelve months to March 2007, an increase of nearly 1.5 million in five years. This makes it the 37th most-used Network Rail station and the 15th-busiest outside the central London area. In addition, it was estimated that more than 900,000 people used the station to change trains.

The platforms are numbered from 1 to 15, but passenger trains are confined to just eight tracks. The numbering system means that most are numbered separately at each end with odd numbers at the east end, and even numbers at the west end. To further complicate matters, platform 2 is not signalled for passenger trains, and platform 14 does not exist.


The name of the station, "Temple Meads", derives from the nearby Temple Church, which was built by the Knights Templar in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 14th century, and gutted by bombing during World War II. [cite web | title=Temple Church | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2006-07-28] The word "mæds" is an Old English derivation of meadow, referring to the water meadows alongside the River Avon that were part of Temple parish. As late as 1820 the site was undeveloped pasture outside the boundaries of the old city,cite book |last=Lobel|first=MD|authorlink= |coauthors= |title=The Atlas of Historic Towns, Volume 2: Bristol, Cambridge, Coventry, Norwich|year=1975 |publisher=The Scolar Press in conjunction with The Historic Towns Trust|location=London |isbn=0859671852] some distance from the commercial centre. It lay between the Floating Harbour and the city's cattle market, which was built in 1830.

Brunel's station

The original terminal station was built in 1839-41 for the Great Western Railway (GWR), the first passenger railway in Bristol, and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the railway's engineer.cite book| last = Foyle| first = Andrew| title = Pevsner Architectural Guides: Bristol| publisher = Yale University Press| date = 2004| location = New Haven and London| id = ISBN 0-300104-42-1] For his first railway, Brunel chose to use the RailGauge|84 broad gauge for this line. He went on to use the gauge for many more of the railways that he built in South and West Britain. The station was on a viaduct to raise it above the level of the Floating Harbour and River Avon; the latter being crossed via the grade I listed Avon Bridge. The station was covered by a convert|200|ft|m train shed which was extended beyond the platforms by convert|155|ft|m into a storage area and engine shed, which in turn was fronted by an office building in the Tudor style.cite book| last = Binding| first = John| title = Brunel's Bristol Temple Meads| publisher = Oxford Publishing Company| date = 2001| location = Hersham| id = ISBN 0-860935-63-9] Train services to Bath commenced on 31 August 1840 and were extended to London Paddington station from 30 June 1841 following the completion of Box Tunnel.cite book| last = MacDermot| first = E T| title = History of the Great Western Railway, volume I 1833-1863| publisher = Great Western Railway| date = 1927| location = London]

A few weeks before the start of the services to Paddington the Bristol and Exeter Railway (B&ER) had opened on 14 June 1841,cite book| last = MacDermot| first = E T| title = History of the Great Western Railway, volume II 1863-1921| publisher = Great Western Railway| date = 1931| location = London] its trains reversing in and out of the GWR station. The third railway at Temple Meads was the Bristol and Gloucester Railway which opened on 8 July 1844 but was taken over by the Midland Railway (MR) on 1 July 1845. This again used the GWR platforms, diverging onto its own line on the far side of the bridge over the Floating Harbour. Both these new railways were engineered by Brunel and their lines too were initially built to the broad gauge. Brunel also designed the Bristol and South Wales Union Railway, but this was not opened until 25 August 1863, nearly four years after his death. It too terminated at Temple Meads.

Bristol and Exeter Railway station

In 1845 the B&ER built its own station at right angles to the GWR station and an "express platform" on the curve linking the two lines so that through trains no longer had to reverse. The wooden B&ER station was known locally as "The Cowshed"; but a grand headquarters was built at street level on the west side of its station in 1852-54 to the Jacobean designs of Samuel Fripp. The Bristol and Portishead Pier and Railway opened a branch off the Bristol and Exeter line west of the city on 18 April 1867, the trains being operated by the B&ER and using their platforms at Temple Meads.Awdry-RailCo, P 19.]

In 1850 an engine shed had been opened on the south bank of the River Avon on the east side of the lines leading to the B&ER station. [cite book| last = Lyons| first = E| coauthors = Mountford, E| title = Great Western Engine Sheds 1837-1947| publisher = Oxford Publishing Company| date = 1979| location = Poole| id = ISBN 0-860930-19-X] Between 1859 and 1875, 23 new engines were built in the workshops attached to the shed, including several of the distinctive Bristol and Exeter Railway 4-2-4T locomotives. [cite book| title = The Locomotives of the Great Western Railway, Part 2: Broad Gauge| publisher = The Railway Correspondence and Travel Society| date=1953| id = ISBN 0-90686-790-8]

Goods stations

The GWR built a convert|326|ft|m|0 by convert|138|ft|m|0 goods shed on the north side of the station adjacent to the Floating Harbour, with a small dock for transhipment of goods to barges (though not to sea-going ships as the wharf was upstream of Bristol Bridge). Wagons had to be lowered convert|12|ft|m|0 to the goods shed on hoists. On 11 March 1872 a direct connection to the harbour was made in the form of the Bristol Harbour Railway, a joint operation of the three railways, which ran between the passenger station and the goods yard, across the street outside on a bridge, and then descended into a tunnel under the churchyard of St. Mary Redcliffe on its way to a wharf in a more convenient position downstream of Bristol Bridge.

The B&ER had a goods depot at Pylle Hill (south of the station) from 1850; and the MR had an independent yard at Avonside Wharf on the opposite side of the Floating Harbour from 1858.cite book| last = Maggs| first = Colin| title = Rail Centres: Bristol| publisher = Ian Allan| date = 1981| location = Shepperton| id = ISBN 0-711011-43-2]

Effects of the change of gauge

On 29 May 1854 the Midland Railway had laid a third rail along their tracks from Bristol to Gloucester to give a mixed gauge so that they could operate RailGauge|ussg standard gauge passenger trains while broad gauge goods trains could still run to collieries north of Bristol. Sidings at South Wales Junction allowed traffic to be transhipped between wagons on the two different gauges. The GWR continued to operate its trains on the broad gauge, but on 3 September 1873 it opened the standard gauge Bristol and North Somerset Railway. This had a junction nearly convert|0.5|mi|km|sing=on from the station on the London line and so the mixed gauge was extended to that point. During the following year mixed gauge track was continued beyond Bath in connection with the conversion of the Wilts, Somerset and Weymouth Railway to standard gauge. The mixed gauge was then laid through Box Tunnel on 16 May 1875 and so standard gauge trains could run from Bristol all the way to London, although the broad gauge was retained west of Temple Meads and through trains from London to Penzance and other stations in Devon and Cornwall continued to be formed of broad gauge trains. Goods traffic was transhipped between the two gauges in the B&ER yard at Pylle Hill.

The B&ER converted to mixed gauge the line from Bristol as far as Taunton by 1 June 1875, but the remainder of the line to Exeter was not done until 1 March 1876, three months after the B&ER had amalgamated with the GWR. The remainder of the lines beyond Exeter were converted to standard gauge on 21 May 1892 so the extra rails at Temple Meads fell into disuse and were removed to leave a purely standard gauge layout. This allowed the through station to be rebuilt with two additional platform faces.

1870s expansion

The additional railway routes put the two short – convert|140|yd|m – platforms of Brunel's terminus under pressure and so a scheme was developed to extend the station. An enabling Act of Parliament was passed in 1865 and between 1871 and 1878 the station was extensively rebuilt. Brunel's platforms were extended by convert|212|yd|m towards London, and a new three-platform through station built on the site of the express platform, while the B&ER station was closed and the site used for a new carriage shed.cite book| last = Oakley| first = Mike| title = Bristol Railway Stations 1840-2005| publisher = The Dovecote Press| date = 2002| location = Wimbourne| id = ISBN 1-904349-09-9] This work is usually attributed to Brunel's former associate Matthew Digby Wyatt, however there is no documentary evidence of his involvement in the Minutes of the Station Joint Committee. The only signature on the drawings is that of Francis Fox who was the engineer of the B&ER.cite journal| last = Nichols| first = Gerry| title = Rebuilding Temple Meads Passenger Station 1870 to 1875| journal = Broadsheet| issue = 54| pages = 8–15| publisher = Broad Gauge Society| date = 2005 ] The curved wrought-iron train shed over the new through platforms was convert|500|ft|m long on the platform wall. The goods depot was rebuilt with the inconvenient wagon hoists replaced by a steep incline connection from the east end of Temple Meads, which meant that the sidings in the goods shed were turned at right angles to their original alignment and the barge dock was filled in.

Trains on the Bristol and South Wales Union and the Midland routes operated from the terminal platforms while GWR services used the new through platforms. The capital costs of the new work were split 4/14 GWR/B&ER and 10/14 MR. The ongoing costs were split GWR 3/8, MR 3/8 and B&ER 2/8. Hence when the GWR absorbed the B&ER in 1876 the split was GWR 5/8 and MR (later LMS) 3/8 until nationalisation on 1 January 1948.

Twentieth century changes

In 1924 the goods depot was rebuilt with 15 platforms, each convert|575|ft|m long. Large warehousing and cellar space was provided to store goods; although by this time another city centre goods depot had been opened at Canons Marsh.

Between 1930 and 1935 the through station was expanded under the direction of architect P E Culverhouse, both eastwards over the old cattle market, and southwards on a new wider bridge across Cattle Market Road and the New Cut of the River Avon. This made room for the addition of five new through-platform faces, while the removal of the narrow island platforms in the middle of the train shed allowed the main Up and Down platforms to be both widened and lengthened. All the routes approaching Temple Meads were widened to four tracks to allow more flexibility.

As part of this work four existing manual signal boxes were replaced by three new Power Signal Boxes; and the semaphore signals and mechanical point linkages were replaced by colour light signals and point motors. The new Bristol Temple Meads East box was the largest on the GWR with 368 miniature levers operated by three signalmen assisted by a "booking boy". The other two boxes were one at Bristol Temple Meads West, and one controlling the movements in and out of the new Bath Road Depot which replaced the old B&ER locomotive works in 1934.

During World War II the station was bombed, which led to the destruction of the wooden spire of the clock tower above the ticket office on 3 January 1941. Gas lighting was replaced by fluorescent electric lights in 1960.

A second main-line station serving Bristol, Bristol Parkway, opened in 1972. It is on the northern outskirts of the Bristol conurbation close to the M32 motorway and was initially designed as a park and ride facility for long-distance travellers.Butt-Stations]

In 1990-91 £2,000,000 was spent on a renovation of the main train shed and another £7,000,000 on restoring some of the older areas of the station, including the refurbishment of the subway and construction of new retail outlets. The shorter of the two 1935 platform islands had been used only for parcels traffic since the 1960s but was temporarily brought back into passenger use during this work. It was fully restored for passenger use in 2001.

In June 2008, Bristol Temple Meads railway station was sponsored for the first time. A recruitment company placed its logo around the station to promote its local jobs website.Fact|date=July 2008 The sponsorship features pennants attached to lamp-posts across the car park/entrance to the station, branding on the platform running-in boards, and floor signage. Similar sponsorship has been applied at Bristol Parkway railway station.

Closure of lines

Passenger traffic on the old North Somerset line ceased on 2 November 1959 but many more closures followed after the publication of Dr Beeching's "The Reshaping of British Railways" in 1963. The connection to the Bristol Harbour Railway was closed on 6 January 1964; passenger trains to Portishead were withdrawn on 7 September 1964; and most local services in the north of the city were withdrawn on 23 November 1964. The following year saw local services on the Midland Railway route to Gloucester withdrawncite book| title = Railways in Avon, a short history of their development and decline 1832 - 1982| publisher = Avon County Planning Department| date = 1983| location = Bristol| id = ISBN 0-860631-84-2] and the former Midland route to Bath Green Park via Mangotsfield was closed on 7 March 1966. St Anne's Park and Saltford on the line towards Bath survived until 5 January 1970.

On 12 September 1965 the terminal platforms were closed. This allowed the platforms to be renumbered but the with the order being reversed (see list below). The redundant train shed became a covered car park in February the following year, but from 1989 until 1999 Brunel's station was an interactive science centre known as The Exploratory and exhibition space. It is now the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, although the BE&CM intends to relocate to London. [cite web |url= |title=News |accessdate=2007-03-13 |format= |work=British Empire and Commonwealth Museum ]

Bristol Panel Signal Box was built on the site of the Platform 14 after it closed. When opened it controlled 280 multiple-aspect signals and 243 motor-worked points on convert|114|mi|km of routes around Bristol, the largest area controlled by a single signal box on British Rail at the time. [cite journal| last = Kitchenside| first = GM| title = The Bristol resignalling scheme controls the crossroads of the West| journal = Modern Railways| volume = 30| issue = 292| pages = 10–15| publisher = Ian Allan| date = 1973| accessdate = ]



Although it is now possible to reach the station through the Temple Quay office development (which is on the former site of the goods shed), or from the Bristol Ferry Boat landing stage on the Floating Harbour, the traditional and main approach is from Temple Gate. Isambard Kingdom Brunel's Tudor-style offices, now the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, face this road and are flanked on the north side by an archway that used to be the main station entrance for departing passengers; a matching arch on the other side was the arrivals gateway but was removed when the station was expanded in the 1870s.

Opposite these offices are the Grovesnor Hotel and the derelict George Railway Hotel which were built in the 1870s on either side of the Bristol Harbour Railway bridge. A modern pub named The Reckless Engineer as a tribute to Brunel faces the approach road that rises up to the station.

On the right of this Station Approach but at a lower level is the B&ER office building designed by Samuel Fripp; the 1930s offices known as "Collett House" and a disused parcels depot lie beyond. On the left is Brunel's original station building. The train shed is convert|72|ft|m wide with a wooden box-frame roof and cast iron columns disguised as hammerbeams above Tudor arches. It is believed to be the widest hammerbeam roof in England and, along with most of the station, is a Grade 1 listed building, [cite web | title=Bristol Old Station, Temple Meads | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2007-03-13] [cite web | title=Temple Meads Station | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2007-03-16] and forms part of a proposed Great Western Railway World Heritage Site.cite web | title = The Great Western Railway: Paddington-Bristol (selected parts) | publisher = United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation | date = 1999 | url = | accessdate = 22 May 2008] At the top of the slope an entrance on the left to the covered car park marks the junction between the original terminus and Fox's 1870s extension.

Ahead is the turreted main station building, and to the right a flat area marks the site of the B&ER station. The tunnel beneath this area was the route for passengers to and from the Down platform of the station from 1878 until the station was enlarged in 1935.


Entering the main building, the ticket office and ticket machines are immediately ahead, and the route from Temple Quay and the ferry is on the left; a bookshop is on the right, next to the platform entrance. Customer Information System screens by the entrance show the arrival and departure information (including any delays) for next services on all platforms, as do local displays on each of the platforms. All platforms are signalled for trains in either direction and the flexible layout means that trains on any route can use any part of the station. [cite web|url=|title=BRI Network Rail Live Departures and Arrivals|work=National Rail Enquiries|accessdate=2008-07-04] At Temple Meads platforms with odd numbers are at the east end, and those with even numbers at the west end (though geographically this is the south due to the curvature of the platforms).cite book| last = Jacobs| first = Gerald| title = Railway Track Diagrams Book 3: Western| publisher = Trackmaps| date = 2005| location = Bradford-on-Avon| id = ISBN 0-954986-61-X]

Entrance to the platforms is controlled by automatic ticket gates and is situated on Platform 3 which is used by many of the northbound CrossCountry trains and local services to Bristol Parkway and Gloucester. The main station restaurant and bar is on the leftcite web|url=|title=Station Facilities: Bristol Temple Meads|work=National Rail Enquiries|accessdate=2008-07-04] and the short Platform 1, a terminus bay, is beyond this. This is most frequently used by Severn Beach Line trains but is long enough to handle any four-car Diesel Multiple Unit (DMU) that does not need to run through to the west. Behind Platform 1 is a brick wall that forms part of the Panel Signal Box and on this are some metal artworks created by artists with learning difficulties to celebrate Brunel's 200th anniversary in 2006; an interpretation panel can be found nearby. The High Level Siding beyond Platform 1 is the rump of the Bristol Harbour Railway, and Barton Hill TMD (Traction Maintenance Depot) can be seen in the distance alongside Bristol East Junction (formerly South Wales Junction) where the lines to Bristol Parkway and Bath diverge. The large grey box structure above the tracks at this end of the station is a bridge installed in the 1970s for postal traffic; it links with the derelict sorting office beyond Platform 15.

On the right of the entrance is the subway that links all the platforms (it can be reached either by steps or lift); it houses the main public toilets, automated teller machines (ATM) and several catering outlets (there is catering on all platform islands except 13-15). A passenger information office and lounge is situated above the subway, the British Transport Police office and passenger cycle racks are beyond, and at the far end is Platform 4 which is occasionally used by trains heading westwards. Alongside this is Platform 2, another bay platform but this is not signalled for passenger services and is now only used for stabling empty trains, as is the former Motorail unloading bay alongside. At the far end of this track is the old Fish Dock which is occasionally used for stabling engineers' on-track equipment. Beyond the end of the platform the tracks swing to the right (the west) and pass out-of-sight beneath Bath Road Bridge, a girder bridge that carries the A4 road out of the city.

The first platform island comprises platforms 5 to 8. Platforms 5 is inside the main train shed while 6 is a southerly extension and 7 and 8 were added outside the supporting wall in the 1930s. Platform 5 is used by many trains towards Cardiff and platform 7 for those to Portsmouth; platforms 6 and 8 are the main platforms for trains to Weston-super-Mare and stations as far as Penzance. Between platforms 5 and 7 are the two Spur Sidings that are long enough to stable a single Class 143 railbus or Class 153 DMU.

The third platform island comprises platforms 9 to 12 and also dates from the 1930s. It is longer than platforms 5-8 but the rear of a High Speed Train on the west end platforms will block part of the east end platform. A wide variety of trains use these platforms, including trains to and from London Paddington and London Waterloo stations and also Weymouth.

The final platform island is shorter and only has east-end platforms 13 and 15, although 15 is used by most trains from Paddington that continue westwards from Temple Meads to Weston-super-Mare or beyond. Platform 13 is a terminus platform and is used by many trains from London Paddington and some local services too. There is another siding beyond platform 15 that used to be the In/Out Road for Bath Road Traction Maintenance Depot. This depot has been demolished and is being redeveloped for non-railway purposes. Between platforms 3/4 and 5/6 are the Up Through line and the Middle Siding; the Down Through line runs between platforms 11/12 and 13.

Other facilities include pay phones, public WiFi, a post box, photo booth, and passenger assistance such as information points, waiting rooms, a lost property office, first aid room, and CCTV.

Passenger volume

Temple Meads is the busiest station in the Bristol area. Official statistics show it to have the 37th-largest number of people entering or leaving any Network Rail station; this makes it the 15th busiest outside London and the third busiest First Great Western station, after Paddington and Reading railway stations. Comparing the year from April 2006 to that which started in April 2002, passenger numbers increased by 26%. [cite web| title =Station Usage| work =Rail Statistics| publisher =Office of Rail Regulation| url=| accessdate = 2008-06-30] The statistics cover twelve month periods that start in April.


Rail services

The station is operated by First Great Western who provide main line services to London Paddington station, [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 125 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF] long distance services to Cardiff [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 132 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF] and the South Coast, [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 123 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF] and local services to Weston-super-Mare, Taunton and Gloucester. [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 134 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF]

An alternative route to London Waterloo station is provided by South West Trains, [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 160 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF] while regular CrossCountry services run westwards to Plymouth and Penzance in the West, [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 135 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF] and northwards to Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland. [cite web |title = National Rail Timetable 51 (Summer 2008)|publisher= Network Rail|url =|format=PDF]

Bus and ferry links

In addition to its train services, Temple Meads is served by many buses. First Bristol services 8, 8A, 9 and 9A provide a frequent service from in front of the station doors to the City Centre, Clifton, Bristol Zoo, and Redland. [cite web|url=|title=First Bristol Timetable 8, 8A, 9 and 9A|work=First Group|accessdate=2008-07-04] Other services calling at the Station Approach bus stops are 330 and 331 to Bristol International Airport, and 121, 672 and 674 which serve the airport and then continue to various Mendips villages such as Wrington, Winscombe [cite web|url=|title=First Somerset & Avon Timetable 121|work=First Group|accessdate=2008-07-04] and Cheddar. [cite web|url=|title=Bath & North East Somerset bus timetable 672/674|publisher=B&NES|accessdate=2008-07-04]

On Temple Way, the main road outside the station, are bus stops for country services to Wells and Bath via Saltford. On the opposite side of the road a bus stop is served by frequent city services 1 (from Broomhill to Westbury-on-Trym and Cribbs Causeway), and 54 (from Stockwood to Southmead and Cribbs Causeway). [cite web|url=|title=First Bristol network maps|work=First Group|accessdate=2008-07-04]

The Bristol Ferry Boat calls at a landing stage in the Floating Harbour outside the station on a route to Bristol Bridge, St Augustine's Reach in the City Centre, the SS Great Britain, and Hotwells. [cite web|url=|title=Bristol Ferry Boat Company – Temple Meads timetable|work=Temple Meads timetable|publisher=Bristol Ferry Boat Company |accessdate=2008-07-04]

See also

*Rail services in Bristol


Further reading

*cite book| last = Gomme| first = A| coauthors = Jenner, M & Little, B| title = Bristol: an Architectural History| id = ISBN 0-85331-409-8

External links

* [ Panoramic photograph inside the train shed]
* [ Photographs of Bristol Temple Meads]

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