By Ian Onions, Political Editor
A SENIOR Bristol councillor has urged transport leaders to “think big” over a pioneering tram system which could ease the city’s traffic congestion.
The Ultra Light Rail (ULR) system would initially run from a brownfield site near the Cumberland Basin to the new museum at Prince‘s Wharf. A second phase would see an extension to Temple Meads.
Mr Bradshaw, who used to be the city’s transport leader, said a tram could potentially make “a real difference” to easier travelling in the city.
He said when he was in charge of the council’s transport department three years ago, a technical review was carried out on different transport systems.
“If there has been a technological breakthrough since then which makes these trams a real proposition, then I would be very keen to learn much more about them.”
He believes that if they are workable, then a service between Ashton Gate and the docks would not be enough to make a big enough difference to the city’s transport problems.
He said: “If these trams do provide a viable alternative, then perhaps we should consider running them into the city along the M32.
“If we are going to deal with the transport problems in the city, then I think we have to work towards making a real difference from day one.”
The trams would run from a park and ride site next to the Portishead rail line and run over the River Avon and along existing track next to Cumberland Road and into the dockside.
They would initially run on methane gas but could later be adapted to run on bio-methane which is produced from recycled waste.
They could take up to 120 passengers in a two-car unit with the possibility of 200-car trams within two years. They would not need overhead wires and as they would be much lighter units, the shallow rails could be laid on existing roads without disrupting cables and sewers underneath.
The major hurdle, however, is funding.
The West of England Partnership, which represents the four councils in the former Avon area and promotes major transport schemes for the region, is backing a bendy-bus network for greater Bristol.
They put forward a network of bendy-bus routes to the Department for Transport but now funding is under review because of public spending cuts.
The partnership is considering revisions to the bendy-bus network, such as removing the controversial park and ride site off the M32 at Stapleton.
Members of the partnership will meet on July 1 to decide which scheme to put before the Department for Transport in time for its deadline of September 9.
The tram system is being supported by a pressure group called Trams for Bristol, an offshoot of the Greater Bristol Transport Alliance.
They would like to see the bendy buses dropped from Route 2 – the Long Ashton park and ride to Bristol Temple Meads – in favour of the trams.
They argue the trams would be cheaper to install, greener to run and more popular than the bendy buses.
The trams have been put forward by a consortium of Bristol-based and international firms called Sustraco which would like to see the trams run by a not-for-profit company that would be set up jointly by the council, private enterprise and local residents.