Tuesday, 21 April 2009
BRT Questions for WoE Partnership
An item on Chris Hutt's Green Bristol Blog starts me on a hunt for information from the West of England Partnership.
WoEP have just put in a funding bid for the Ashton Vale Bus Rapid Transit scheme, and have published the 'outline business case' (OBC) that they've sent to the government. Fair enough - the plan had been approved by the Executive Members form each of the four authorities back in January, and by the Cabinets of the key councils, Bristol and North Somerset, the following month.
It had also got through the scrutiny process without any blips, in fact Jon Rogers (still in political opposition at that time) was moved to describe the 'interchange' at Temple Meads as 'a very exciting, innovative element of the scheme'. He was referring to that exciting, innovative new bus stop 400 metres from the rail station.
But the OBC that the transport planners have sent to Westminster doesn't seem to reflect the plans that our elected reps gave their blessing to a couple of months ago.
Take the Prince Street Bridge crossing of the Floating Harbour. The plans said no more than that the bridge would certainly need a bit of work, to accommodate the width and frequency of the BRT and the rerouted buses at this pinch point. There had been mention of a new bridge, or a new cycle and pedestrian bridge.
What the OBC suggests is nothing of the sort: it's very much the same bridge, but with cyclists in both directions expected to share a carriageway with the shuttling buses and, apparently, with cars and commercial traffic excluded.
I have no problem with that last bit, but I know it's controversial! You might expect the motorists' champions, the Tories, not to mention the Evening Post, to be up in arms about the exclusion of cars. After all, their leader Richard Eddy had led the campaign to prevent it back in 2006, and with some success.
Today, they had their big chance to object using the official 'scrutiny' provisions of the Partnership. But they remained silent. Reason - their very own chair of the scrutiny committee, Barbara Lewis, had cancelled the meeting because it had no business of sufficient importance! And this is the only group that scrutinises the West of England's many functions. Has the partnership done nothing worth looking at this last month?
On Friday, the four West of England Transport Executive members will be meeting at Temple Quay, and they'll be asked to 'note' that the OBC has gone in as they agreed. Except, of course, that it doesn't seem to be what they agreed. Jon Rogers, as an assiduous blog reader and twitterer, should know that by now, if he didn't already.
I've tabled some questions for answer at the same meeting, to try to bring out this and other issues around the weaknesses of the BRT scheme - not least the opportunity loss of a decent Temple Meads interchange. It will be interesting to see what the members think of them.
I'm not holding out much hope of constructive answers though. Today I got an e-mail from the same transport planners after I'd pointed out crucial contradictions (items 8 and 9 below) in the case made out for South Bristol Link Road. It said " I'm not proposing to comment on specific elements of it at this stage".
Well, if they don't tell the Executive members what they're up to, why should they treat me any better?