The 'ambitious’ £8.9bn transport plan for Bristol
Could Bristolians really be taking a train to the airport and driving in autonomous cars by 2036? That’s the plan.
From underground rail and new motorway junctions to autonomous vehicles and new MetroBus routes – a new £8.9billion transport vision has been drawn up for the Bristol region.
Described as “intentionally ambitious” a leaked draft of a West of England Partnership report shown exclusively to the Bristol Post sets out new solutions to the city and the wider region’s transport issues.
The hefty price tag betrays the enormity of the study which covers road, rail, bike and pedestrian routes.
However, it is very much a ‘wish list’ document and it is highly unlikely that all of the projects listed in the dossier will come to fruition.
Bristol is constantly named as one of the most congested cities in the country and the latest TomTom study found that motorists in the city spend a total of six days a year waiting in traffic.
The situation is only set to get worse as the population of the South West increases. The West of England Combined Authority (Weca) – which covers Bristol, South Gloucestershire, B&NES – and North Somerset Council are aiming to build 105,000 homes across the region by 2036.
The authority has said that the only way to mitigate congestion in the region is to encourage people to ditch their cars and use public transport.
And the report warns that the region could suffer economic and health problems if transport solutions are not found.
It states: “Transport is cited as by many people as one of the most critical challenges facing the area, with relatively limited travel choices resulting in high car use and congestion.”
In order to dissuade people from driving, the transport vision puts forward a number of improvements to the frequency, accessibility and reliability of public transport to make it a more attractive option.
The vision was developed by an independent body for the West of England Partnership, which includes Weca and North Somerset. It was partly funded by Highways England.
The report was created using responses to a 2016 public consultation, and expert analysis. It is due to be published – probably with some amendments – in the autumn.
Here are some of the headline programmes outlined in the vision.
The first, and potentially most ambitious, is the potential to create an underground rail network which would include lines from Bristol city centre to Bristol Airport and routes running from to the north and east parts of the city.
New MetroBus routes
Some seven new MetroBus routes are proposed in the report, which would link the city with Bath and Weston-super-Mare and extend services in South Gloucestershire.
Park and Rides
A total of 11 new park and ride sites are proposed around Bristol’s outskirts to encourage people to park up and get public transport in to the city centre.
While the aim of the transport vision is to reduce the number of people using their cars, the report does set out several new road improvement schemes.
One already in pipeline is the addition of a junction 18a on the M4. South Gloucestershire Council is already running a public consultation as to where the new junction could be built and has put forward three proposals, including an exit joining Westerleigh Road, a link skirting Pucklechurch or one passing between the village and Lyde Green.
The study mentions the possibility of creating an exit on the eastbound carriageway of the M4, which would enable the creation of a new link road to Yate.
The possibility of an additional motorway junction between junctions 20 and 21 of the M5 is also discussed. Called junction 21a, it is proposed that the new exit would provide a link to the A38 to give better road access to Bristol Airport.
The report outlines the potential for widening the existing smart motorway sections on the M4 and M5.
The M4 currently has variable ‘smart’ traffic speed limits between junctions 20 and 19 and the report suggests extending this to junction 18 at Tormarton.
The M5 employs the same system between junctions 16 and 17, which it suggests extending to 21a at Weston.
Other new roads mentioned in the report include and extension to the A4174 Avon Ring Road between Hicks Gate and Whitchurch, a new bypass linking Winterbourne and Frampton Cotterell and a new highway link connecting the A36 at Bathampton to the A363 near Bathford, to encourage motorists to avoid driving through the centre of the city.
Alongside an underground rail system, the transport vision outlines the benefits of reopening and building suburban rail stations. Some four former stations – Ashton Gate, St Anne’s, Charfield and Saltford – are named as favoured locations and a site off Constable Road in Lockleaze is identified as an area for a new station.
The report states that there should be a target of having at least two services an hour through the city rail system, with good waiting rooms, real-time timetable information, bus stops and car parks.
While bursting with good ideas, the study makes it clear that “the transport vision is conceptual”, “very ambitions” and likely to change due to future feasibility studies.
It estimates that it would cost upwards of £8.9 billion to roll out all of the ideas presented, the equivalent of spending £450 to £600 million a year.
The report states: “[The vision] will require an unprecedented level of funding, with a large acceleration in spending from current levels.
“The components of the transport vision will require significant further work to develop business cases and, if they have a clear case, further consultation and the completion of statutory planning processes.”
However, it claims that transport investment in the Weca region has been well below the £1.4 billion promised by central government for the past two years, so the authority is in a good bargaining position.
The report adds: “The West of England is the most productive part of the South West and is one of the UK’s best performing city regions.