It seems that there is now a serious push on to site an Arena (circle below) at Ashton Vale near the site now allocated for a new football stadium (rectangle below), with the Bristol Evening Post once again acting as cheerleader. Bristol's current political leaders all seem to be in favour of an Ashton Vale Arena, partly on the grounds that there is a 'synergy' between the Football Stadium and an Arena in terms of their transport infrastructure requirements, which is true up to a point.
View Arenas and Stadiums in a larger map
But an Arena isn't quite the same as a football stadium, mainly because it is likely to be staging events far more frequently and so having a much more significant impact in transport terms. The inescapable reality is that an Ashton Vale Arena will be accessed overwhelmingly by car even if the Ashton Vale BRT is developed, whereas the site previously envisaged for an Arena near Temple Meads could really make good use of our rail infrastructure and would be much more accessible by walking, cycling and bus due to its central location.
Land at Ashton Vale as it is now, following wanton destruction of trees earlier this year.
George Ferguson has been quick to speak out against the Ashton Vale proposal for this reason. This blog has had its differences with George in the past but once again he is saying clearly and loudly what desperately needs to be said. If we are even half serious about becoming a Green Capital or even just a Sustainable City then we need to think seriously about the transport implications of such iconic new developments as the Arena. Quite apart from the number of trips generated the character of the accessibiltiy of the Arena will send out signals about the future character of Bristol as a whole.
One only has to visit Cardiff Millenium Stadium to see the extent to which its proximity to Cardiff Central Station and its generally central location in the city is the key to its accessibility. Think of the 'synergy' between an Arena at Temple Meads and our rail services, which would receive a big boost during otherwise off-peak periods. The infrastructure and the capacity is there already and has the potential to be increased. Admittedly there is the posibility of some limited rail access being developed near Ashton Vale but this would be out on a limb rather than at the heart of the region's rail network and simply wouldn't have the capacity to replace more than a token amount of car journeys.
So once again those of us who care about the future direction must add our voices to that of George Ferguson and try to point out the contradictions between an Arena at Ashton Vale and a sustainable future for Bristol. Having the Football Stadium at Ashton Vale, just 750 metres further out than the existing football stadium, is one thing but an Arena that will draw crowds from the whole of Greater Bristol and well beyond is something else.