The Prince Street Bridge saga continues with a new exchange of fire last week. First the Bristol Cycling Campaign issued a Press Release which appeared in Wednesday's Evening Post under the headline "So who does want this bridge ban?". We (I'm one of them) pointed out that there were few benefits to cyclists in the proposed closure of half the bridge to motor traffic and some quite significant disbenefits like having to jostle for space with pedestrians and squeezing past queues of cars, engines running, waiting for the shuttle signals to change.
We also pointed out that the partial closure seemed to be inspired by the need to pave the way for the proposed Bus Rapid Transit route from Ashton Vale. This was supported by the simulation (now reissued with cars driving on left hand side of the road instead of the right!) and map issued by the BRT promoters themselves the previous week which showed the route passing over Prince Street Bridge and was further confirmed by the Council declining to take the opportunity to comment on why their original Press Release bizarrely referred to Prince Street Bridge having only one footway.
But last Thursday a response came from BRT promoters West of England Partnership (WoEP - who for practical purposes are Bristol City Council) with a story appearing in Friday's Evening Post headlined "New harbour bridge for Bristol's rapid transit bus route" and implying that the BRT buses might cross the Harbour on a new bridge alongside the existing swing bridge. However the WoEP spokesperson's quoted comments said no more than "... the city council is also looking at ways to cater for access over Prince Street bridge". Hmm, not exactly what it says on the tin.
We are told that the budget for the whole BRT route is just £26 million. This already has to cover the construction of new guided bus track work from the Long Ashton P&R site right through to Prince Street Bridge, including a new bridge over the Portbury railway line, a new foot/cycle bridge alongside the Ashton Avenue Bridge (old railway bridge), which itself will need renovation to take buses, and relaying the single track railway along the Cut. According to the WoEP spokesperson "...bridge works are expected to be almost a quarter of the costs at around six to seven million pounds".
Now bridges don't come cheap, especially not opening bridges capable of carrying bendy-buses (which weigh in at 16 tonnes each) in a 'heritage' area, where appearance will be hugely important. The current view of Prince Street Bridge from Harbourside is one of those iconic views of Bristol. If that view is to be obscured by a new bridge they're not going to get away with some utilitarian steel and concrete structure.
Even in the less environmentally sensitive area of Temple Quay the new, non-opening Cheesegrater footbridge came in at £2.4 million, so they'd be lucky to get a new opening BRT bridge for the whole of their bridge budget. And it looks as if a new bridge would have to span a much wider gap than the existing swing bridge. In any case wouldn't it be cheaper to build a new footbridge for walkers and cyclists, which could be raised higher to minimise the need to open it for navigation, and keep the existing bridge for the bendy-buses? The figures and the facts don't really stack up.
So it looks like WoEP (alias Bristol City Council) are hyping up the notion of a new BRT bridge just to take the heat off Bristol City Council (alias WoEP), who are looking increasingly out of step and isolated with their ill thought out plan for partial closure which they tried to pass off as a benefit to cyclists. The Council must be wondering why they're getting such poor advice on cycling matters from their Cycling City partners Sustrans.