In the absence of WECA the West of England Combined Authority producing any coherent plans to tackle congestion, pollution and climate change, Transport Forum for Greater Bristol (TfGB) – an alliance of local campaign groups including but not limited to Bath Trams have produced their own set of integrated coherent plans covering commuting, rat run control, buses, parking.
They are drafts and being polished and honed currently ready for formal release in about 1 month.
Both Grant Shapps and the Mayor of Bristol have specifically asked for copies.
Comment from Gavin Smith, retired (formerly Bristol City Council):
As an officer of the City Council working my last ten years in Transport Planning, Community Transport and Public Transport, and being part of the team that produced Bristol’s Local Transport Plan (2001/2-5/6) with its detailed examination of the road hierarchy, traffic flows and accidents, and then later on GBBN and subsidized bus services, I am dismayed how our work has not been taken on since (with brave exceptions including the Bus Deal). It is only too clear to me why, which is why I am writing this in explanation.
Having worked in transport for Local Authorities up and down the country (GLC, Sheffield, Norfolk, Cumbria), in consultancies, and within the voluntary/campaigning sector, it has been possible to get the wider view. Which is – though none of it is that surprising:
Politically Bristol is hampered internally by the Party system, which militates against difficult decisions for fear of losing the next Councillor elections. Decisions don’t get made. The Mayoral system has to some extent made that easier, but can suffer from a democratic deficit. So still today, wider public debate of the city’s transport issues is suppressed, rather than facilitated and encouraged. In particular, few dare challenge what is in effect the residents’ own ‘car lobby’.
- As a city in the world, Bristol is handcuffed by the machinations of its surrounding suburban authorities. This now takes the form of WECA, elaborated further as ‘Western Gateway’: a gerrymandered structure deliberately designed to syphon-off Bristol’s government transport grants into suburban highway schemes. The city has yet to unify to counteract this political ambush.
- Professionally in the transport field, over-specialism within BCC (and lack of capability within WECA) continues to rule. Cycling plans are made without reference to pedestrians, neighbourhoods or wider traffic management. Bus planning is largely abandoned to the operators, with no attempt at PTE/Combined Authority unified transport planning powers. Traffic management has yet to shake off its ‘keep the traffic moving’ predict-and-provide 1970s rationale (an exaggeration, admittedly – but not completely). Parking is partially a cash-cow, and there is that fear (one that didn’t bother Nottingham) that firmer management might somehow drive businesses away – so a Workplace Parking Levy is talked about but never actually pursued. Rail planning is ignored, and rail lands and infrastructure disregarded as public assets – BCC has never itself attempted a Temple Meads Master Plan. Park & Ride suffers from unresolved exasperating boundary issues (notably on the M32). Urban design pushes, once strong (viz. the rescuing of College Green and Queen Square) seem to have subsided, to the extent that a disconnect from traffic and bus management neutralizes the production of a City Centre Plan equivalent to say, Bath’s. In effect there is no mind – political or public – planning Bristol’s transport future. Though greenwash abounds.
Bristol has proved one of the hardest places to actually get anything done.
The attached set of draft ‘Plans’, really one Plan, for Bristol’s transport future – Rapid Transit, Bus, Traffic Management and Parking – are to be read as an interdependent, phased, single Plan. Without a Rapid Transit system ( it a steel wheel based light rail or tram system – not a gimcrack busway or Metrobus system)– like those of Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Edinburgh and now Cardiff – Bristol will not solve is air pollution, congestion or modal split issues. Nor get DfT grants for substantial infrastructure investment, as those other cities do get by having logical plans. Nor compete against WG’s and WECA’s road schemes. No plans, no cash, no progress.
Without tackling parking, people will continue to drive. Without tackling through-traffic rat-runs (which particularly affect wards like Lawrence Hill, Ashley, Easton), people will continue to drive. Without negotiating with Network Rail, Port of Bristol and the other Big Kids, we will not get either MetroWest nor any tie-in (such as Croydon, Birmingham, Manchester and Cardiff have ashieved) between rail and on-street tram plans. Yet funnily enough, the Big Kids would be willing to talk – they do elsewhere. Thus this is copied to James Freeman of First Bus, with whom we seem to talk and plan at least as much as WECA or BCC attempt to do.
TfGB is non-Party. The wish is for a cross-Party unified stance Bristol can take forward not just to WG or WECA, our MPs, the Minister or DfT – but to the voters of Bristol. As a Bristol endeavour.
If you want a confidential pre-view of a draft please contract Chairman@Bathtrams.uk