Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

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


Anonymous said...

One problem is that the master plan for the rest of the area (Temple Meads redevelopment, Arena, etc.) is not finished yet, so we can't really know how (and if) it all fits together.

I think the location of the new main entrance at the Friary is in the right place, and - details aside - the Temple Gate proposal seems sound to me.

I don't think anything is going to happen with Plot 6 for quite some time, because it will probably be used to store materials and machinery whilst the station is redeveloped, so until ~2019 or so. I believe the plan is to open up the lower levels of the station on all sides, so that will provide additional space, but it will still not be enough.

The new entrance would be located perfectly for pedestrians (and cyclist) wanting to head towards the city centre via Brunel Mile or Victoria Street.

Turning plot 6 into a (bus) transport hub makes little sense to me. There's not really enough space for that, managing incoming/outgoing traffic (in addition to the usual taxi/car traffic) will be a challenge, and generally it will just wreck the experience of the new entrance. So basically it would be like it's now on the station concourse. I hope noone wants to recreate that kind of traffic disaster on the other side of the station.

It seems planners might be looking at the site in front of Bristol & Exeter house for a transport hub of sorts. That makes much more sense to me (esp. if the station ramp were to be removed, but that's another discussion).

As for car parking, there were plans for a multi-storey car park at the end of Friary where the signal box is now. I suppose from there it would not be too far to walk to the arena, especially with the new bridge in place.

Stockwood Pete said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree entirely about the difficulty due to the TQEZ Master Plan still being incomplete (let alone involving anyone outside the landowners). That's why it seems premature to come up with a Temple Gate scheme that closes down key transport options that could make the station and the bus network operate so much better.

Agree, too, that a new Friary entrance to the station is to be welcomed, and especially if the lower levels of Temple Meads can provide significant new space for passengers and for those just passing through. Whilst road access into and out of Cattle Market Road does look very problematic, it will help enormously if pedestrians and cyclists can pass beneath the station to reach the Arena area. Two other potential routes are a boardwalk along the Floating Harbour to Totterdown Lock, and (if they listened to me!) direct access to the Arena 'island' from Platform 15.

The Devon and Exeter site (aka the TCN site, apparently) is being marketed now, though I don't know how seriously they're trying. I've just found a 2012 prospectus for the TQEZ at – it suggests the owners are marketing it for a 120-bed hotel. Agreed, it has lots of potential for public transport, especially given the access beneath the station and the present awful bus stops along that frontage.

Coming back to the current Temple Gate consultation, all the emphasis seems to be on the 'Brunel Mile' – no problem with that being a key factor, but it seems to have overridden all other aspects of the plan; it's hard to see any other significant gains for anyone in the scheme that's being promoted. A fur coat and no knickers scheme!

Stockwood Pete said...

Correction – that TQEZ Development Prospectus mentioned above is comparatively recent – October 2013. It's a good read (if you like that sort of thing) and strong on promises of 'seamless interchange' and the like, but the phrase seems only to apply to the station itself – not to the development sites around it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to that document, Pete. I hadn't seen it before. Quite interesting. It seems to be targeted at developers though. I think there's still a master plan for Temple Meads station forthcoming that will show how everything will be tied together, and the prospectus makes references to it as well.

Geoff Kerr said...

I grew up in Bristol in the 1950s and 60s and moved away in 1973. What Stockwood Pete says about Temple Meads reminds me of walking down the Incline and waiting for a bus to Knowle at one of the stops along Temple Gate (service 3 then). There was never enough shelter and the pavement was narrow. I don't remember when the manned ticket barriers were removed from the station so that it become "open", but this only lasted a few years until gates were introduced. I do remember an exit from the subway into Cattle Market Road. It was only an exit and you could not get into the station that way, but there was a manned booth with a ticket collector. This must have closed around 1960 or even earlier.