Old photographs of Parkway and Ride Station as it heralded a new era of train travel

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If you were to compile a list of the most boring and unglamorous places around these parts, then Bristol Parkway Station would be somewhere near the top.

Many Bristolians will also tell you that if you had to drag yourself there to commute or take a work trip to London at 7am on a Monday morning, it can be the most depressing place on the planet. (Even more so, old-timers will add, if you had to do it before the new smart station opened in 2001.)

Prior to 2001, you could either wait for the train on a windswept platform resembling an unfinished sheet metal shed with a few bus shelters with uncomfortable seats, or sit – more likely standing – in a narrow, lighted waiting room in yellow with a small snack bar and newsstand in one corner.

READ MORE:Forgotten moments come to life in long-lost footage of 1970s Bristol

But the old Bristol Parkway, which turns 50 this week, has played a huge role in Bristol’s development over the past few decades. Moreover, its opening was an extremely important turning point in the development of the British rail system since then.

When Bristol Parkway was built at a minimal cost of £200,000 and opened on May 1, 1972, it was the first completely new station in England after years of railway closures. Beeching’s notorious cuts of the 1960s had given way to a more nuanced idea of ​​how people could, should or wanted to travel and Bristol Parkway would become the first of a whole new generation of stations integrating travel by car and by train.

According to a letter to the February 5 edition of BT, the idea of ​​turning the former Stoke Gifford marshalling yards into a station was “sold” to British Rail bigwigs and a government minister and his entourage in taking them on a train ride past the area and making sure they were generously supplied with booze. That’s the story, anyway…



Cloudy-eyed commuters in London in 1988

It came with 600 free parking spaces (parking charges didn’t come into effect until the 1990s) and was deliberately designed to reduce traffic on the M4 and entice people to travel to London by train at the square. The parking lot suggests that this is how it got its name “Parkway”, although this is not the case.

‘Parkway’ was suggested by a member of the public during a British Rail competition to come up with a name, and came from an early designation of the nearby M32 motorway which was then being built to run from the M4 in the center of Bristol.



The Hambrook Spur aka the Bristol Parkway aka the M32 under construction, mid 1970s. The early stages of the motorway linking Bristol to the M4 were open when the station opened in 1972, and this is it , rather than the car parks, which inspired the name of the station.

Since then, a number of other stations across the country have had the “Parkway” suffix added to their names to indicate that they perform a similar function. But Bristol Parkway was the first.

And whether you love it or hate it, Bristol Parkway also played an important role in the massive development to the north of the city that followed in its wake, because whether you were building offices or homes, the fact that there is a train station nearby. Getting to London in less than two hours is a major selling point.

So we thought we’d take a nostalgic trip (if that’s the right word) through Parkway’s past with some of the Post’s archival photos. Enjoy!

Local railway historian Mike Oakley celebrates Bristol Parkway’s 50th anniversary with a booklet featuring a brief history of the station and some black and white photos, both of the original station and the current station. It costs £3 (including UK postage and delivery) and to order a copy you can call Mike on 01179 692351 or E-mail.


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