Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


The Bus Rapid Transit route that will bring north Somerset commuters from the Long Ashton Park and Ride into town by a different route, didn't start that way. Originally it was part of an ambitious new network that would traverse the city. BRT2 itself was to continue right through to Emersons Green by commandeering the Bristol-Bath cycle path for the its north-eastern leg. It was also intended to be a substantially different form of transport, using guided bus ways and sufficiently unlike a bus to attract drivers to make the switch from cars to public transport.

All that fell to pieces, of course. First with the successful defence of the cycle path against the encroachment of 'rapid' buses; then with the forced budget cuts that the Department of transport insisted on (the cuts were, of, course, in the government grant. The local contribution actually went up to £15 million plus extras). The latest change is to (perhaps) revert to a rather more eco-friendly bus instead of the diesel bendy-buses that have been the first choice up to now, and to fiddle a bit with the route at Temple Meads. 

In all, the current scheme is a very different animal from the original, except in the route it's to take from the Park and Ride into the city centre.

So it's legitimate to ask what it's actually for now.

The official answer seems to be that the government has offered some money towards it. That's a bit like going into a posh shop, seeing a very expensive item that you have no use for with a big “70% OFF!” price tag, and finding the offer irresistible. Then, after paying, finding there are many more built in costs than you bargained for. And it's not something you ever wanted anyway, and now you've got to find more money for the things you really need.

Another part of the downside is the despoilation of the popular waterside walks and rides along the New Cut and the Harbourside, as tarmac and diverted buses take over from the Create Centre to the M-Shed.

Benefits? We're told that the BRT2 will clip a minute or two off some journeys into town – though that will depend heavily on budgets, frequencies and, of course, on choice of destination. It could do the same for all the other buses from north Somerset that will be diverted onto the same route instead of coming through Hotwells and Anchor Road. And it will free up bits of the Cumberland Basin highways from some of those buses, in turn encouraging more private traffic, including all the extra that will be brought by the new South Bristol Link Road. Don't expect improved traffic flow there, then!

It's that South Bristol Link Road that probably explains why BRT2 (pretty pointless in itself even for its sole beneficiaries, the north Somerset commuters) is still on the table.
Ripe for development - the S Bristol Link Road route
The Link Road (read 'Ring Road') really is a money-spinner. It's key to developing the Green Belt to the southwest of the city, just as was proposed in the Regional Spatial Strategy with the enthusiastic support of land speculators and builders. The airport expansionists have been lobbying hard for it. But it would never win funding unless there was a veneer of 'sustainability' about it. 

That's where another of the rapid transit routes comes in.
This one follows the alignment of the South Bristol Link Road, and wraps it in a 'sustainable public transport' label. Nobody's really  fooled of course... everyone knows that if you want to invest in a useful rapid transit system, a link between Hengrove and Ashton Vale will be near the bottom of the wish-list. But the promise of these vehicles on the new road gives planners and politicians in Bristol and London the excuse they want to build a road, opening up the green belt.

To give this BRT link a bit of added credibility (because predicted passenger figures prove it would be nowhere near economic, or even socially necessary, or accessible to most potential passengers) the route has to do more. That's where BRT2 comes in, providing that essential link to take the South Bristol Link BRT on into the city, albeit by a tortuous and time consuming route that makes nonsense of the word 'rapid'.

If BRT2 should be abandoned, there's an inescapable knock-on effect on the South Bristol Link BRT, which would lose any shred of credibility that it might still retain. And if that BRT gets abandoned in turn, it removes the sole figleaf of 'sustainability' that covered the destructive potential of the Ring Road.

I think that's why they're clinging on to BRT2.

Note: A petition has been launched asking the new mayor (whoever it may be) to cancel BRT2. You can read and sign it at

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