Thursday, 10 February 2011
Running Rings Round Bristol
The South Bristol Link is, exactly as predicted, morphing back into a Ring Road. The temporary green veneer that was provided by the promise of Rapid Transit is fading even before any contracts are placed.
Oh, and it's going to cost us an extra ten million quid, too.
Remember how Jon Rogers was so keen to deny that the South Bristol Link had anything to do with any ring road project? The Rapid Transit was what it was all about - even though everyone knew there was no convincing case for it.
Now, desperate to offer a road-loving, cost-cutting transport secretary what he wants (and to clip a minute or two off Steve Comer's drive to the airport), the Joint Lords of the West of England Partnership, egged on by the new Local Enterprise Partnership, have been wielding the knife with one hand and reaching for the council chequebooks with the other.
The new deal which keeps the Ring Road on the DfT table retains just the same road link between the A378 Long Ashton and Hengrove Park. The Rapid Transit is the same too - for the few hundred metres from Long Ashton P&R as far as Brookgate, where road and BRT converge just north of the railway crossing.
After that, what was a segregated guided Rapid Transit track becomes a mere nearside bus lane up the hill to the A38 at Castle Farm. To most eyes, that means it's going to be a four-lane road for most or all the time.
From there, dipping across Highridge Common through Withywood and on to the Hartcliffe roundabout, there was to have been a central carriageway for the buses. That's been ditched in the newest plan, substituted by 'nearside bus lanes on the approaches to significant junctions'. In other words, the bendybus becomes an ordinary bus on ordinary busy roads, but with less stops.
To complete the deal, the council is offering an extra £10 million from its (our) own resources toward the overall cost. £10 million that could have been set against the horrendous £70 million cuts to services that must be implemented in the next four years.
So we get the road that the businessmen and the airport operators want. The local price goes up to £17 million (plus the risk of cost overruns), but it's about more than hard cash and missed opportunity. We can also forget that talk about reducing road traffic, facing up to climate change and the threat of Peak Oil (not to mention the LibDem's claims to oppose new road building).
Welcome once more to the LibDem World of Hypocrisy.
Scheme Description (March 2010)
Revised bid for 5 Major Transport Schemes (30/12/2010)