Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Bridging the Gap ? Not 'ere, mate!

The scene when Stockwood Pete left the Temple Gate consultation for a peak time journey home. The 3 mile trip took an hour, most of it spent here. The new proposals would do next to nothing to relieve the discomfort and delay of this and similar journeys.
'Bridging the Gap' looks like being a strapline for Bristol's year as European Green Capital. Not as a daring highwire act, but as a serious attempt to bridge the gap between our green rhetoric and what we actually do to green the city and the world around us. Because we have to.  And because it will make Bristol a better place to be.
At Temple Gate, the talk has always been about seamless interchange (add similar phrases of your choice) as well as the wider city ambitions to become a low carbon, healthy, pacesetter among the Core Cities.
Do the current proposals for Temple Gate bridge that gap? No chance..
If (a very big if) the plans now out for consultation do allow traffic to flow more smoothly, then that will help a bit. There's not much to suggest that will happen, though. We're told merely that 'The reconfiguration of the road will ensure the existing capacity is maintained'. That doesn't really sound like a step forward, and doesn't take into account whatever extra traffic is generated by the Enterprise Zone developments and the major modernisation of Temple Meads railway station to accommodate ever-rising passenger numbers.
By the same token, the conflicts between walkers, bikes, and traffic mostly remain... a double whammy because it not only discourages the first two groups, it causes delays and traffic build-up.
A huge problem for the city's planners is that they simply don't know what's going to be built on the various Enterprise Zone sites. The Arena and the new Friary-side station entrance seem assured, but the rest are just a gleam in the eyes of the LEP and speculative developers. How can anyone design a road traffic system to serve that?
The obvious answer would be to wait and see. Even the suggested improvements to a short section of the Brunel Mile, taking centre stage in the Temple Gate literature, can't form part of a coherent whole until the big decisions are taken about Plot 6. For the rest of it, the newly straightened Temple Gate – Temple Way alignment would provide no opportunities for better public transport access to the immediate station/interchange area – wherever it might be. Even the spanking new Metrobus gets no nearer than 300m to the station – and that's a single route in a single direction.
To 'Bridge the Gap' would be to provide that interchange. It's essential to absorb all the new travel demands of the TQEZ and the rising passenger numbers at the station. And it's got to be good – very good - if it's to persuade significant numbers to forsake the car.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Temple Meads - Now and When?

A rare glimpse into the opaque planning process for the derelict sites around Temple Meads station is promised from Tuesday 13th, when we'll be invited to “help shape our proposals for Temple Gate”. There'll be an exhibition of the latest plans at the Engine Shed (the original GWR offices) on weekdays till the end of the month, with actual planners present between 4 and 8pm on the 13th and the 21st.  The consultation website is at

If they've kept to the letter and spirit of the Temple Quarter design brief, published a couple of years ago, the proposals will contribute to

which sounds like common-sense if seriously unambitious (where's the connectivity with the rest of Bristol, where's the expectation of quality?  "21st Century" isn't enough)
Before we get to a glimpse of this promised land on Tuesday, lets look at where we are – at least with the rail/bus links.
Temple Meads is a lovely station – but it provides next to nothing for people on the town side of the ticket barriers. No seats. No toilets. No cash machine. During the working day there's a WH Smith's, plus basic refreshments and flowers outside by the taxi ranks. There's been an attempt to provide more public transport information as well – a real-time display and more for buses leaving stops around the station, and volunteer meet-and-greeters for the bewildered.

There are bus timetables to take away – but the only bus map of the city comes courtesy of First, and only shows their services (I got the last one, anyway!) Even the Elf-Kingdom to our southwest publishes a bus map – but the European Green Capital no longer seems interested.
For those travelling on from Temple Meads by bus, the most fortunate are those heading for the airport, or for the 8 and 9 services to the city centre and Clifton.
They get the benefit of the station canopy while they wait.
No such luck for UWE students and staff, and others headed up the Gloucester Road. For them – if they can find it - there's an unmarked, un-timetabled, unsheltered stop half way up the ramp.

For buses into the south-eastern suburbs and beyond, there are stops along Temple Gate at the foot of the ramp; small shelters that may be the only option for the busy narrow pavements they stand on, but totally inadequate for the passenger numbers they attract, and under extra pressure from pave-cyclists escaping the considerable risks of riding the main highway .

Those arriving from the same places, or boarding the 1 or the 2 towards the north-west of the city, must cross Temple Gate, adding as much as 2 minutes to the journey time, or much more if it leads to a missed train or bus.

 (Those 2 minutes might not seem much, but similar time savings are used to justify many £millions of investment in grandiose flagship transport schemes!)

No real-time displays on any of these stops, by the way
Passengers suffering these minor, but wholly unnecessary inconveniences are actually the lucky ones. Those whose journeys will take them to other parts of the city – huge swathes of the south, southwest, east and northeastern urban areas must add an extra leg, and an extra wait, to complete their journey.  Or jump in a taxi, of course.

WasteLand of Opportunity.... the undeveloped brownfield sites around the station.

Even before electrification and MetroWest, passenger numbers at Temple Meads have been rising.  With the present shambolic interchange between rail and bus there'll certainly be a shift in the modal split away from rail/bus toward rail/car or rail/taxi - exactly what we can't afford to happen.  So radical change is a must - and it's got to involve those wonderful windfall sites around the station.  The Temple Gate proposals must take them into account.

First among them is Plot 6, of course.  That's the strip between the station and the Friary, where Network Rail have talked of putting the new station entrance.  Although the DigbyWyatt Shed (the redbrick part of the station currently used to park cars) will be provide a home for the London electric expresses, and so won't be available as a common concourse for all passengers, it must be possible to find similar space in the new entrance for the amenities that waiting passengers want.  Plot 6 offers easy access to southbound buses from Temple Gate, and could be engineered to allow northbound buses to enter and leave while the pedestrian crossing is in use, keeping flow interruption to a minimum.
Next, the area around the Bristol and Exeter building at the front of the station.   Again, a great opportunity to get the buses off Temple Gate while their drivers are busy taking fares and issuing tickets to boarding passengers (what a crazy way to do things!).   Already First seem to be using this 'mixed use development' as an ad hoc bus park.   An advantage could be easy access into the station at the road level, and through to a planned eastern exit on Cattle Market Road (for the Arena, more new developments, and traffic-free routes to Brislington and beyond).   Difficulties might be in providing a route into the site to and from the northbound lanes of Temple Gate.  
Finally, that long-derelict eyesore the Royal Mail building on Cattle Market Road.  Probably not a place to redirect buses - but potentially a hub for pedestrians, bikes, and - yes - cars!  With the Arena over the bridge, dependent in its financing plan on parking revenues, that's become a sad reality - and of course there'll always be a need for some station car parking.  Whatever happens on the other two sites, this one needs to complement them.   Reported plans by the present owners Kian Gwan to use the existing structure for multiple uses, and to relieve the isolation of the site with a riverside boardwalk link towards the town actually look very promising, especially if Network Rail and the Arena planners manage to provide direct access to and through the station (those who are familiar with Cardiff Central will recognise the similarities)
The conclusion is that all these sites are interdependent, and all relate to Bristol's transport infrastructure.  Mess one up, you mess the lot up.   On Tuesday, when we get to see what's being lined up for Temple Gate, the big test will be how it relates to improving public transport, and whether it shuts down options for the other sites.
This picture is the flyer for the Temple Gate consultation :
Apart from the much heralded two-way carriageway, some scaffolding removed and an opportunistic spot of infilling, it looks much as it does today.   Lets hope Tuesday reveals something much more radical