The comments, which give a detailed account of email exchanges with senior officers, can be read in full and in context here but the salient points posted by Cllr Jon Rogers are as follows -
In summary, Officer A disputed that the partnership had (1) "seemed most anxious to scotch our suggestion that the BRT buses would use Princes Street Bridge" and (2) "quietly published the BRT plans".So there we have it. Prince street Bridge will be used by the BRT bendy-buses, as first reported here back in October! I'll leave it to you to decide whether the obvious need to strengthen the bridge justifies the claim in WoEP's November Press Release that "The current bridge is not suitable for rapid transit. We may need to build a new bridge instead, either for the rapid transit, or for other vehicles as well as cyclists and pedestrians."
Officer A concluded,
"I understand that, following amendments to the scheme as a result of consultations, consequent cost pressures resulted in necessary revisions to certain aspects of the RT Scheme. This included retaining and modifying the Prince Street Bridge rather than financing the cost of a replacement bridge and associated harbour wall modifications. Before finalising the change in the case of the bridge, an independent surveyor's report was also obtained to assist in costing the bid.
Whilst the cost pressures and cash limited funding means there is unlikely to be finance to change this proposal I understand the general traffic management issues could be further considered as part of developing the Transport and Works Act Order which is to be submitted by December 2009."
To which I (Jon Rogers) replied,
"The plans have clearly changed.
"The plans have changed without alerting the Executive Members to the major impact on the Prince Street Bridge, which is known to be politically controversial.
"(1) The Nov 2008 press release said unambiguously, "The current bridge is not suitable for rapid transit." This was despite the repeated questions at that time "will the BRT cross the Prince Street bridge". I cannot be surprised that people don't believe what we say.
"(2) "On 2nd April 2009 you (and others) received an email from Officer E referring you to the bid on the Partnership's website." - This is not the same as letting the general public know. They discovered it perhaps a week or so later. Why didn't we press release the publication on the web (or better still "twitter" it)?"
Officer A responded yesterday with
"(1) The November press release did say "The current bridge is not suitable for rapid transit". This meant that the current bridge would at the very least need to be strengthened and the Programme Entry bid costings provide for this.
"(2) I take your point; our February press release couldn't go that far because the bid was not finalised. When Officer E wrote to some 45 stakeholders, plus Councillors and MPs a further press statement would have been appropriate."
The definitive response from Officer D said
"Further to the correspondence last week, following a briefing this morning from Partnership officers and the opportunity to read your correspondence and the response you received last Tuesday from Officer A my observations are as follows:-
The statement that the current bridge is not suitable for rapid transit remains true. The proposals as shown for Programme Entry require the existing bridge to be rebuilt to accommodate the increased loading from BRT vehicles. Heritage considerations would mean, however, that the rebuilt bridge would look very much like the old one.
For BRT and Prince Street Bridge, three options were considered:-
· Rebuild the existing bridge to accommodate additional loads (this could include or exclude general traffic).
· Replace existing bridge with a wider bridge to provide segregation for BRT whilst allowing for general traffic.
· Install separate bridge for BRT alongside existing structure.
Following consultation and a review of costs, the first of these options was chosen and subsequently agreed by the Rapid Transit Project Board when approving the Programme Entry Bid.
I accept that it would have been helpful to have shared the revised plans with members. Unfortunately, the pressure of the bid deadline and also the change in administration reduced the opportunity to do this.
Having said that, Officer A is right to refer to the further public consultation that will be necessary as part of securing the Transport and Works Act order which authorises the powers (including planning issues) to implement the scheme. This provides further opportunities to review what is set out in the plan in the bid.
Any such changes that are considered will need to take account of their impact on the overall scheme objectives including their impact on adjacent parts of the network. In other words, additional or different engineering solutions at the bridge or in nearby locations may need to be considered.
There is a wider point. I would expect Programme Entry bids to be as near final as possible, but detailed design work and public consultation in the period up to conditional approval does provide the opportunity for change. In this case, that would be against the backcloth of serious cost pressures and the further value engineering that is envisaged.
The WoEP officers continue to be evasive about the need to close Prince Street Bridge completely to general traffic, as well they might in the run up to the elections in June. Conservative leader Richard Eddy is already pledged to oppose any plans to close the bridge to cars and it is very likely to become an election issue.
The plan is to have BRT bendy buses passing over the single lane bridge at 2 minute intervals, to accommodate two BRT platforms just to the north of the bridge and to keep the area of Wapping Road by the Museum of Bristol clear for access to the busway running behind the museum, plus to accommodate heavy flows of cyclists and pedestrians. All that is simply incompatible with the continuing use of Prince Street Bridge by general traffic. For a start where could traffic queues be accommodated if the whole area from the Grove junction to the back of the museum needs to be kept clear for bendy-bus movements?
Here's another comment just posted by Cllr Mark Wright (Cabot) which is very pertinent.
Interesting that WoE seem to think that removing Redcliffe roundabout and moving Redcliffe Way is compatible with closing PSB to cars, as this seems to contradict the results of a piece of work by Halcrow on Temple Circus Gyratory and Portwall Lane.Finally let's consider the comment posted by Bristol Dave on 11th April.
Maybe they've managed to square the circle, in which case great - but I haven't been told that despite all the relevant officers knowing that I have an interest in the area...
I have it on very good authority (and am waiting for proof to publish on my blog) that the designs for BRT over Prince Street bridge, from the very start in 2007, have always been to run the BRT over the existing bridge and these plans have never changed, despite WoEP press releases. There have also been no official plans or designs drawn up for a seperate bridge - despite what they said they were never even toying with the idea.He hasn't published his "proof" yet but doesn't it ring true, considering all that has now been revealed? Let's remember whose watch all this happened under and note the commendable efforts of Cllr. Jon Rogers to change the culture in favour of openness and honesty.