In June 2007, the words 'South Bristol Ring Road' made their last appearance in the transport planners' list of projects. In July 2007, we first saw the South Bristol Link - just the same project in a new suit of clothes.
There had been no 'Windscale fire' to prompt the change of name, and many of us wondered why the rebranding had happened. Whose idea was it, and why?
The answer may lie in a briefing about the Ring Road prepared by GWE Business West a few months before. It commented:
'Think about a new name for the road – it has a serious image problem! South Bristol Link Road, Bedminster Bypass – anything to get away from the idea of a ring road – “ring roads take people through places, not to them” '.
So, sure enough, that's exactly what the planners and politicians did.
There was more than that to it, though.... Business West were worried too that the business case for the ring road didn't stand up:
" The argument for the ring road suggests it will have a beneficial impact in access to existing employment sites (and may even open up new). If this is the case then these need to be clearly identified. If Cater Road and Hawkfield Business Parks will benefit, where is the evidence? Need facts and figures to support the economic development arguments particularly as more recent evidence on new road provision would not support this case." (my emphasis)
Perhaps that explains the absolute lack of any substantive case for the regenerative effect of the proposed road. Better to say nothing than to reveal that the case doesn't stand up.
Still, who needs facts? The real problem, as always, is negative public perception! To counter this, Business West recommended:
"Produce some photos/pictures/artists impressions together for particular sections of the route to show what it could look like – tree lined avenues,
cycle/bus lanes, guided bus route etc. This would help to get away from the idea that the ring road is just a dual carriageway for cars that would segregate communities and produce barriers to walking and cycling access."
If you'd like to see how that turned out, the West of England's 'Travel+' website has the pictures
On Business West's website now, it would take an expert navigator and a lot of luck to find what they thought - and feared - back then. Now, they too talk of the 'South Bristol Link' with the same simple assumptions that it's a good way to spend money and carve through South Bristol and the Green Belt.
Almost exactly what's being presented in the officers' report to tomorrow's West of England Transport Committee.