By Mike Ribbeck, Business Editor / firstname.lastname@example.org
MORE than 120 businesses and local organisations are backing the controversial bendy bus scheme for Bristol.
Five bids for funding for transport schemes in the Bristol area have been lodged with the Government.
As part of the £200 million package a rapid transit system would be created in Bristol.
The system would see bendy buses using dedicated bus routes on three routes in the city. But as part of the package Bristol City Council says it would be forced to introduce new taxes to make up a £4 million shortfall in the funding.
Two options are on the table – a supplement on business rates or, more controversially, the introduction of a parking levy for city centre businesses.
The levy would see firms charged £1 a day for every parking space they supply to staff. So far Nottingham is the only council in the country to have introduced a similar scheme.
Several high-profile business leaders in Bristol, including Peter Hargreaves, the founder of stockbrokers Hargreaves Lansdown, have spoken out against the parking levy. Business West, the chamber of commerce organisation for Bristol and the surrounding area, has also expressed its reservations about a parking levy.
There has also been disagreement on the city council, with the Conservative group refusing to back the introduction of extra taxes for businesses.
The five bids are being backed by all four unitary authorities in the Bristol area and a decision is expected from the Government in December.
The schemes – the Bath Transportation Package, the Weston Package, the Ashton Vale to Bristol City Centre, North Fringe to Hengrove Package and the South Bristol Link which make up the rapid transit network – will, if all successful, see nearly £250 million invested in local transport.
Brian Allinson, the chairman of the Joint Transport Executive Committee for the West of England, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity. Officers from across the four authorities have been working hard to develop these schemes that produce significant benefits in terms of economic output, unlocking jobs and reducing carbon emissions.
“Together the schemes serve locations that are expected to deliver more than 60,000 jobs by 2026.
“We have had support from a wide range of businesses, large and small, who understand the need to revamp the transport system locally – reducing the congestion that loses them money and providing a rapid and reliable public transport system to allow people access to jobs.
“In parallel with this we are working on how to maximise the local opportunities for rail services presented by the electrification of the Great Western main line.”
Around 125 letters of support for the scheme have been sent to the Department of Transport.
Backers include Bristol Airport, Avon and Somerset Police and the First bus company.
Robert Sinclair, the chief executive of Bristol Airport, said: “The package of transport measures proposed through the five major scheme bids will improve access to Bristol Airport.
“Links to Bristol Airport are not as good as many other airports of a similar size in the UK.”
The airport also believes that some of the traffic problems in villages in North Somerset would also be eased.
Law firm Beachcroft has also given its support to the transport bids. Senior partner Michael Bothamley said: “Through our local business associations we know of many other businesses who have similar concerns to ourselves as to the parlous state of the local transport system in the Bristol city region.
“The transport schemes represent a major opportunity to begin a programme of improvements which will significantly upgrade both public transport and the infrastructure necessary to access jobs and businesses.”