Tim Kent, executive member for transport on Bristol City Council, tells the Evening Post why, despite widespread criticism of the idea, he believes the bus rapid transit network – known as the bendy-bus route – is the best hope for the city to have a fast, efficient public transport system
SEPTEMBER 9 this year will be a red letter day for Bristol.
It’s the day Bristol City Council and its partner authorities in the West of England submit full and final funding bids to government for Bristol’s bus rapid transit network – the last stage on a journey to secure £114 million of government funding.
It’s the region’s last big chance to secure national finance for major transport schemes. The government will stop handing out large amounts of money for local public transport initiatives beyond this round of funding.
Bristol is currently the most competitive city outside London. Bristol City Council argues that’s good news for jobs and growth across the entire UK.
All that is missing is a first-class public transport system of the type business visitors and regular business commuters expect to see.
Business leaders and Bristol City Council are championing bus rapid transit, with routes designed to further boost the city centre economy and unlock new business and employment opportunities in poorly connected areas of the city.
A report to Bristol City Council today will advise the cabinet of the details of the final bid. Three bus rapid transit schemes would serve Bristol:
n Ashton Vale to Temple Meads – with North Somerset Council
n North Fringe to Hengrove – with South Gloucestershire Council
n South Bristol Link – with North Somerset Council.
There are also two other schemes within the West of England, packages for Bath and Weston-super-Mare.
Bath and North East Somerset dropped the bendy bus element of its transport bid earlier this month, aiming to focus instead on strengthening its park-and-ride services.
Bristol’s proposed network – running for much of the route on fast, dedicated lanes – would provide a fast, high-quality alternative to commuting by car, cutting journey times by as much as 40 per cent.
Ashton Vale to Temple Meads provides a rapid link into the city and to the station. Together, the North Fringe to Hengrove Package and long-awaited South Bristol Link have the potential to boost the economy by making better connections between the North Fringe, South Bristol and the centre.
The positive impact for South Bristol is expected to be particularly strong. It is currently held back economically by lack of proper transport connections.
In October 2010, the council received news the government was reducing funding for major schemes. A challenge was issued to local authorities to cut costs to government and increase local funding.
Today’s report gives details of the changes the council has made to the schemes to reduce cost without compromising quality.
Options for funding a £40-million local contribution include raising modest levies affecting the business community, such as Supplementary Business Rate or Workplace Parking Levy (a £1 a day charge for private staff parking spaces). The council is currently in close consultation with business leaders and representatives, and intends to open out involvement as widely as possible across the business community.
Bristol’s economic strength has ensured our transport schemes all remain at the centre of the government’s radar. We are confident in our argument that we are the right city to invest in for government – particularly regarding transport.
Bristol is a magnet for the most forward-thinking, creative and sustainable businesses.
A great transport system will add tremendous value for existing business, and open up fresh opportunities for new or relocating business. That’s not just good news for Bristol – it’s great news for the struggling UK economy.
A lot has been said about rail and we remain committed to restoring rail as a local transport standard. But these bus rapid transit schemes are vital and must come first. They feed into the centre from the key areas that rail can’t reach. We cannot do the right thing – particularly for business, and significantly, for South Bristol – without them.