Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A Temple Meads Hub - a passing bandwagon that's going nowhere?

I make no apology for coming back (for the nth time on this blog) to the topic of a multimodal city transport interchange at Temple Meads.



This is where the happy conjunction of the Digby Wyatt shed (the massive unused, covered listed extension of the Brunel's Old Station, adjoining the current booking hall) and Plot 6 (the development site alongside, currently used for car parking) could provide a shared passenger concourse and the bus and coach bays respectively, offering one-hop access to every part of the city - and most parts of the country. All with the luxuries of shelter, safety, seating, real time information, shops, smartcard cross-ticketing, and refreshments - and the added bonus of direct pedestrian access, cycleways, and the harbour ferries. Even taxis.

Suddenly, a Temple Meads hub has arrived in the political mainstream. Beyond the Green Party, beyond the transport activists, beyond the planning lobbyists. It's now embraced by our last three Transport supremos (Gary Hopkins (hold that thought...), Jon Rogers, and Mark Bradshaw. It's endorsed by the cross-party Transport Scrutiny Commission. What's more, Gary Hopkins has had a word with Norman Baker, and has high hopes of getting the site, or at least the required planning designations, for the city. We're nearly there.

Or are we?

On Bristol 24/7 Labour and LibDem frontbenchers seem keen to claim a part in moving the Plot 6 hub forward. But faced with a request to endorse the whole plan, really making the best of the opportunity, everything goes quiet.

Meanwhile, an email exchange with SWRDA this week reveals that
" The draft development masterplan for plot 6 provides for c.300,000 sq ft of employment-led mixed use development and a new multi-storey car park to reprovide the existing surface car parking. The scheme will include public realm areas and a much improved pedestrian and cycle link between the station and Temple Quay. We have worked with Network Rail, Bristol City Council and English Heritage to produce the draft masterplan, which will effectively form part of the overall Temple Meads station transport interchange, by providing interchange between pedestrians, cycles, ferry, private car and heavy rail modes." (Looks like they've missed the bus there, then....)

and "Any contract for the disposal of the land will require the purchaser to deliver a scheme within these parameters. "

I would have linked here to the master plan at www.plot6.co.uk - but the site's been taken down. The copy I made shows next to no public transport provision on Plot 6, and only rail uses for the Digby Wyatt shed. In the Master Plan, "interchange" means pretty much what we have now, but with more up to date bus stops.

So if there's really been a big push from the city council for a city hub at Plot 6, it looks like SWRDA haven't been told.

And now the Evening Post tells us (SWRDA didn't!) that there are ongoing negotiations with a private buyer, who'd develop the site as per the 'master plan'. No hub.

The site could be sold under our noses, and this wonderful opportunity lost forever.

6 comments:

Interested (via Stockwood Pete) said...

[This comment, from 'Interested' either never appeared or was deleted by a spam filter. Here it is anyway]

I've been reading your blogs intermittently for a while and whilst not always agreeing with your views, and I'm not a committed 'Green' either, I do admire your spirit and determination to expose the shortcomings that are frequently the stock-in-trade of local authorities and other public bodies.

In theory Plot 6 would make an ideal transport interchange though I'm not sure about the public bus situation.

Few city buses pass through the Temple Gate area and for them all to do so would create longer and unnecessary journeys in many cases, unless you are thinking that every city route should begin (and end) at Temple and radiate like the spokes of a wheel to all city districts. That would at least get rid of the sometimes cumbersome cross-city routes but Temple Gate and neighbouring streets would be awash with buses.

If you don't believe that all city buses should use the interchange doesn't that introduce a fatal flaw?

As a city Bristol is like a scattergun: there is no true centre but several inter-connected central districts; there is no coherent bus network but central routes terminate at a number of spots from Broadmead to Broad Quay to Colston Avenue to Baldwin Street; Bristol's many tourist attractions are also widely separated, so much so that wheels of some sort are a necessary evil for many people to visit them.

The 'central' railway station is on the edge of one of the outlying central districts and the suburban rail network is a shadow compared to that enjoyed by many cities, some smaller than Bristol.

I could go on but what I'm really suggesting is that there must be doubt that Bristol could cope with a central interchange no matter how theoretically desirable it might seem.

Stockwood Pete said...

Challenging questions... and I don't have the answers. Really it would need a proper feasibility study to do that. But it looks right!

As you say, cross-town routes tend to be less reliable, because of the congestion in the centre, so yes, I'd like to see routes from all over converging on Temple Meads (some would take in the Centre and/or Broadmead on the way, or do that as an added loop). That's not to say that all routes should come to Temple Meads - just that you should be able to reach all parts of the city direct from the hub.

With smart cards and prepayment, boarding would be very much faster, so the throughput should be much higher. There'd not be much space for buses to layover, so there'd have to be something nearby. (You could say the same about taxis now). Airport and long distance coaches could use the ramp, along with fewer waiting taxis - it's all a few steps from the 'Digby Wyatt concourse'. Of course, demand for taxis and (hopefully) for private cars should drop when there's an easier cheaper alternative.

Possibly the two levels of the site could help to provide more of the crucial landspace for vehicles or for passenger access - though I'd see subterranean bus bays as a last resort, at least until diesel's been phased out!

woodsy said...

Archive.org's Wayback Machine managed to capture some of the Plot 6 site's content from 2009, which you can consult here.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks, Woodsy. I knew nothing of that archive

Matthew said...

Hi Pete,

Two years ago, whilst I was studying at the university of Bath, I produced a design thesis for a new transprot interchange at Bristol Temple Meads. We put on an exhibition at the RIBA bookstore in the centre of Bristol (there was a large pink shed outside for a while)

If you're interested in having a look through the work I did, email me at mtcattell@gmail.com

Matt

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