Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Stupidity? Irresponsibility? Ticking the boxes for Plot 6.

Plot 6, alongside Temple Meads rail station, is arguably the finest opportunity to do what bendy buses won't do, and what trams or Portishead reopening wouldn't do; to turn around Bristol's woeful public transport network so that everyone can get everywhere in two hops at most, with safe and comfortable interchange on the way. The sort of thing that might actually be better than using the car. Cross-ticketing and good real time information can offer 'soft' infrastructure to make it all seamless, and an Integrated Transport Authority can provide the essential governance. Not rocket science. Easy. Job done.

Except.... that the soft infrastructure is being developed only very slowly, sometimes actively opposed by key players, and the ITA isn't being pursued at all. All the energy and the public money is going into Bus Rapid Transit (and, in the case of the South Bristol Link, into the completion of a southern ring road masquerading as sustainable transport).

Worst of all, the Plot 6 site itself, and all its potential, is set to be buried for ever under a new development of retail, office, and car parking.

You might think such folly is impossible. After all, don't the politicians of all parties now officially recognise that Plot 6 has fantastic potential as a transport hub? Didn't the new Local Enterprise Partnership at their very first formal meeting acknowledge the importance of the site for transport interchange to serve economic development? . And they're the unelected quango gifted with the powers to turn this designated 'local enterprise zone' into an employment hub at the heart of a transport network. Everything's in place to make it happen.

BUT this last week, Bristol24/7 published a story that had until then only circulated informally; Plot 6 will not be used as a transport hub. Best we'll get (perhaps) is a BRT stop over in the Friary (Pipe Lane) to serve the station, while the 8/9 buses and the airport flyer that currently stop on the main station approach ramp would be relegated to the same place.

Significantly, the council's rapid rebuttal unit, and the Executive member, have remained strangely silent.

And today, we've seen the pictures of the Prime Minister re-enacting the Thatcher 'Walk in the Wilderness' alongside Temple Meads, in the company of the Local Enterprise Partnership's chair, Colin Skellet. Again, the covering press statements are full of promised opportunities for commercial development across the zone; not a word about its transport potential.

So where's the debate, where's the accountability?

Over on 'Ask Bristol' we've just been invited to discuss the pros and cons of the three bendy-bus routes, just after the council's made its decision to bid for them (while committing to raising the best part of £100 million locally to pay toward the cost). And the politicians are just starting their annual August break from public meetings.

Treating the public with contempt is nothing new, and neither is breaking promises - but the Plot 6 debacle takes stupidity, short-sightedness, and irresponsibility to quite unprecedented levels.

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