By Sam Rkaina and Dan Evans
FUNDING bids for three bendy bus schemes for Bristol have been given the city council’s backing, despite concerns from some campaigners.
Bristol City Council’s cabinet endorsed the proposals at a meeting last night, ahead of a final submission to the Government for funding in September.
The three routes are the £50 million Ashton Vale-to-Temple Meads scheme; the £102 million north fringe-to-Hengrove package and the £45 million south Bristol link.
The council will not find out if the bids have been successful until December but the three are competing with more than 40 others across the country for a pot of money only big enough to pay for half. The bids will be submitted alongside two others for the region, including transport packages for Weston-super-Mare and Bath.
Executive member for transport Timothy Kent said at last night’s cabinet meeting: “This is the first major step in dealing with Bristol’s transport problems and if we don’t take this step, we will not take any step.”
Local transport groups have long argued that bendy buses are not the right choice to solve Bristol’s congestion problems and that trams would be the better option.
But the council maintains the bendy bus bids are the only thing on the table and that, if these bids are not submitted, the area will not have another chance to bid for money for another four years.
Mr Kent added: “It may not be everyone’s dream scheme but it’s a practical scheme that can work and get government funding.”
He said the plans had the potential to cut journey times by 40 per cent and cut carbon emissions, as they served three million people.
Philip Pope, of the Cater Business Park Traders Group, and Mike Knight, from Better Transport Links 4 South Bristol, both supported the South Bristol link, saying it would be good for residents, businesses and shoppers.
Ian Crawford, of the Greater Bristol Transport Alliance, and Liz Ellis, a bus user from South Bristol, both raised fears that it would infringe on green belt land.
They also shared the opinion that they did not want a dual carriageway-type route built purely to improve access from the north of the city to Bristol Airport.
Transport campaigner David Redgewell warned that bendy buses should not be held up as the sole solution to the city’s transport problems, although he said he did support them, and pushed for a more integrated transport system.
Of the three routes, the Ashton Vale-to-Temple Meads route has caused the greatest concern.
Opponents say it will involve too much engineering work and could threaten the future of the Harbourside railway because parts of the line will be shared by trains, double-deckers and bendy buses.
But Mr Kent said the harbourside railway would not be threatened.
As reported in the Evening Post yesterday, Bristol Airport, Filton Business Park, Cabot Circus and Business West have all said the rapid transit schemes are essential to the future economic growth of the region.