Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 27 March 2009

What bus? and where?

Here I am, shoulder to shoulder with Bristol Labour Party's finest. Mark Bradshaw's put up a petition to keep the 'TravelShop' on Colston Avenue open. His signature is quickly joined by others from the Labour front bench. And by mine.

It's all provoked by the First Bus decision to pull out of its partnership with the council in running the shop. As they provided the staff, that can only mean closure - unless the council brings back some of its own public transport staff to do the job.

I've already tabled questions about the closure for answer by Mark Bradshaw's successor, Jon Rogers, at the full council meeting on Tuesday - most of all to ask how they'll provide an 'over-the-counter' information and advice service to the travelling public if the TravelShop is allowed to close.
Oddly enough, Mark Bradshaw has his own questions to put to Jon Rogers at the same meeting, but he's using them to perpetuate a myth of his own making, in true Mandelsonian style. He's looking for confirmation "that a transport interchange at Temple Meads remains a key component of the (rapid transit) bid"

Transport interchange, eh? This is the site he has in mind. Of course it will look different by then. The rapid transit bus from Long Ashton P&R will call here at a stop (described as a 'docking station'!) so that Temple Meads passengers can dismount with their luggage, walk on through a new subway under Temple Way, then continue through a new office-retail-residential development, all the way to the railway station. Other buses (at least, those buses that come anywhere near Temple Meads) will continue to use Temple Way. Not a good place to transfer between buses, bus to train, BRT to ferry etc. etc. But that's Mr Bradshaw's idea of an interchange.

The proposal for a REAL interchange is quite different. It would have buses from all over the city converging on a hub immediately outside the 'Digby Wyatt Shed' at Temple Meads - click the picture and you can see it as the brick building in the distance. Network Rail and First want to turn the Digby Wyatt shed into a state-of-the-art concourse for Temple Meads passengers; all mod cons like real-time information, ticketting and advice, seating, light, safety, refreshments, retail. And there's stacks of room to cater for bus, ferry, and rapid transit passengers in just the same way - instead of leaving them at the scatter of exposed shelters somewhere near the station.

My own petition for this has drawn some very positive public response, but for some reason none of the Labour, Tory, or LibDem councillors has yet signed up to it. Nor has Kerry McCarthy MP, who's playing for time by trotting out the Bradshaw docking station/ interchange myth. That's especially surprising, given that few of her Bristol East constituents can get to Temple Meads in a single bus journey.

You can't help wondering if they've all been nobbled by the site owners or developers, who want to cover the lot with more offices, flats, and shops. Such things do happen!


Chris Hutt said...

Isn't it proposed that the facilities provided at the Travel Shop on the Centre will instead be provided at the Bus Station? If so, is that such a big deal? Some people lose a little, some gain a little?

People complain about the high fares on First buses. First bus look for economies to reduce their costs and so the need for high fares. They identify savings by transfering retail facilities from the Centre to the Bus Station. Then the same people complain about this too.

I'm no fan of First but they do seem to be scapegoat numero uno round these parts. Critics need to decide what they want - lower fares or better services. You can't cut income and increase expenditure without undermining the viability of the whole operation. So which is it to be?

Pete Goodwin said...

Chris, there's already a First (country) and National Express presence at Marlborough Street, so existing passengers there won't gain anything - except possibly a bit more space and shorter queues.

For those using other routes or modes, it's bad news. Can I take it as read that there should, somewhere accessible, be a travel centre that a newcomer can come to and find out all about the buses, coaches, trains and ferries that serve the city, while also having info on cycle routes etc ? A First desk at Marlborough Street, to provide for First's own interests, seems very unlikely to provide all that.

You're probably right to say that - in this case - some of the criticism of First is undeserved. The petition is more positive - it simply asks that the "council, First Group, and other potential partners find a way to keep the Travel Shop in the Centre......"

Chris Hutt said...

The question still remains - should the money required to keep the Travel Shop open be used for that purpose or to reduce fares, or to improve services in some other way? You can only spend money once (although NuLabour would have us believe otherwise) so such choices have to be made.

I don't take it as read that a physical travel information outlet should be maintained when people are increasingly using the internet to access information. What about libraries as a resource to facilitate access to information generally?

Pete Goodwin said...

We'll have to disagree about the need for a comprehensive 'over the counter' service, Chris.

We're still a long way from everyone having the skills and the constant access to make the most of internet information. To suggest that it's a fair substitute for a travel shop is like saying so many people have cars to get to the retail parks that we don't need local shops.

I agree about libraries, though. I reckon there's good scope, too, for shops/pubs etc to put up screens showing the real-time departures from local stops. If I can do it on my home PC, why shouldn't they?