Thursday, 25 February 2010

Railway Path Still Targeted for Bus Route

Since the Liberal Democrats came to power in Bristol just a year ago we all assumed that the plans to run Bus Rapid Transit (BRT, more popularly known as bendy-bus) down the Railway Path to link Emerson's Green to Temple Meads would be finally laid to rest. Noises were made about giving the Path greater protection and removing the BRT proposal from the development plans for the city. More recently the West of England Partnership published their proposals for their Hengrove to North Fringe BRT route (BRT3) which included a link to Emerson's Green via the Ring Road. So I for one thought that with Emerson's Green to Bristol city centre served by BRT via the M32 and Ring Road we could finally lower our guard on the original proposals for the Railway Path route.

But last night I got a shock. I was in the audience at a Civic Society meeting where Jon Rogers and Peter Mann, Bristol's new Service Director for Transport, were giving a presentation on the council's transport plans when the new plan above (click to enlarge) was briefly displayed. The plan shows diagrammatically the network of what Bristol City Council and the West of England Partnership (WoEP) consider the important transport links (i.e. ignoring walking and cycling) to be secured and improved.

The planned BRT routes are shown in cerise and comprise the Bath route (BRT1), the Long Ashton P&R to Centre route (BRT2), the Hengrove to North Fringe route (BRT3) and the South Bristol 'Link' (Ring Road) route (Hengrove to Long Ashton P&R). All depressingly familiar stuff to those of us that follow these things, but there is one more BRT route shown that comes as something of a shock - Emerson's Green to Temple Meads. There are only two viable BRT routes from Emerson's Green to Temple Meads - the M32/Ring Road corridor followed by BRT3 and the Railway Path (as shown on the map below). So the line shown can only mean the Railway Path is still targeted.

View BRT to Emerson's Green in a larger map

No doubt the WoEP will insist that the Emerson's Green to Temple Meads line is only notional and potential routes have yet to be assessed. But what potential routes are there other than the Railway Path? For comparison I've identified the best available road route (yellow above), mainly via Stapleton Road, Fishponds Road, Downend Road and Westerleigh Road. The road route is slightly shorter than either BRT3 (blue above) or the Railway Path (red above), but narrow, congested, subject to low speed limits and with many traffic signals, totally unsuitable for BRT. Journey times could not begin to compete with the Railway Path or BRT3. A road route for BRT to Emerson's Green is simply not viable.

The WoEP plan document properties show that this version has only just been published this month. It represents the latest thinking of the West of England Partnership and Bristol City Council (the two being effectively the same thing in Bristol transport planning terms). So all the recent talk of finally burying the BRT-on-Railway Path plan seems to have been a smokescreen to distract us from the real strategy of lining the Railway Path route up for implementation on the back of the hoped for success of BRT routes 1, 2 and 3.

Two years ago there was a massive campaign to stop the BRT-on-Railway Path plan, a campaign that succeeded in getting the plan "shelved". Now we know what some of us long suspected, that "shelved" merely means delayed until a more expedient time arrives. So will the campaigners of 2008 rise to the challenge in 2010? With an election on the way now is the moment to finally put the BRT-on-Railway Path plan to death. If we wait for the WoEP to choose a time more favourable to themselves then we might live to deeply regret it.


Anonymous said...

How about a route from BTM to Emerson's Green that makes use of the abandoned space running alongside the Severn Beach line from BTM to St Werburgh's, then a slip road onto the M32 through Eastgate?

Could that be viable?


Chris Hutt said...

The option of using the M32 and Ring Road to get to Emerson's Green is already part of the BRT3 plan as shown in blue on the map.

The plan clearly shows that WoEP plan another BRT route to Emerson's Green that doesn't go anywhere near the M32. That can only be the Railway Path.

I understand that Network Rail may one day reinstate extra tracks between Lawrence Hill and Abbey Wood to increase capacity, so running BRT alongside the existing tracks may not be realistic.

Glenn Vowles said...

'So will the campaigners of 2008 rise to the challenge in 2010? With an election on the way now is the moment to finally put the BRT-on-Railway Path plan to death.'

Yes. BRT in this location should be ruled out completly as an option. Jon Rogers often comments on this blog but has yet to do so i this case - would he rule out this location for BRT completely??

Anonymous said...

I thought they were going to put in some protection for the railway path in the LDF.


Chris Hutt said...

Hi Charlie, yes, I think that's what Jon Rogers said, more or less. The current local plan still identifies the Railway Path as a potential rapid transit route. We were told that would be dropped from the new Local Development Framework (which replaces local plan).

But the LDF would have to take account of strategic plans such as that of the WoEP. Their new plan clearly shows a rapid transit alignment that realistically can only be the Railway Path.

Anonymous said...

well done for being so vigilant chris. We need the Railway Path removed from the LDF, as promised.I don't know the obstacles or the timescale. An update on progress towards this end please Jon and colleagues! Steve Meek

Chris Hutt said...

But we need it removed from the West of England Partnership plans too.

Anonymous said...

Chris, so much for LibDem openess and transparency then. I'm sure you will absolve your pal Jon Rogers from all blame, but recent evidence shows he's good at talking but his actions are pretty regressive, eg residents parking let's 'informally' consult people, then ignore them. Watch the railway path route because the LibDems will use it. Who are your allies on the Council? Dan

Chris Hutt said...

No doubt Jon will respond in due course and speak for himself.

Anonymous said...

I did not see myself as a naive person... until taking an interest in local politics. First mistake, thinking protecting the Green Belt meant protecting all of it. Last evening finding that whatever the result of the consultation, the South Bristol Link BRT was going ahead, and after the Core Strategy Full Council Meeting where I listened to Cllr. Rogers say the "Cycle Path" could be protected by the Green Infrastructure Plan and then Cllr. Harrison saying how pleased he was that it had been protected by the BDF, I today find this again may not be so. Politics is a confusing business!

Jon Rogers said...

Sorry for delayed response. Spent unwelcome night and day in BRI after Civic Society meeting on Wednesday! On mend now I hope.

Bristol Lib Dems have consistently said that we will oppose BRT down the Railway Path.

I seconded Charlie Bolton's original motion in April 2008 and we strengthened it, but we were outvoted by Labour wrecking amendment with their usual Tory support.

Since then we have worked to remove the route from the emerging Local Development Framework and strengthen the Path as part of our Green Infrastructure.

The current BRT3 plans link Emerson Green with the City Centre, but via the M32.

The West of England Partnership "position has always been that we need a public transport link between Emersons Green and Temple Meads ( city centre) that picks up people in Fishponds and Mangostfield areas we don't know where it will run."

So, Bristol Lib Dems have said it won't run down Railway Path and WoEP say they "don't know where it will run".

Chris has highlighted other possible routes.

We all need to remain vigilant.

I was elected on a platform of protecting the Railway Path, and will continue to do so. My principles also demand rigorous honesty and openness, and am determined that ideas and future plans from WoEP and Bristol Council are shared publicly.

Chris Hutt said...

Thanks for the response Jon. Sorry to hear about enforced BRI visit - not another cycling accident I hope?

Your response sets out the position very clearly. But we all know that there is only one viable route for BRT from Emerson's Green to Temple Meads and that's the Railway Path. That conclusion is reinforced by the stated need to "pick up people in Fishponds and Mangostfield areas".

To put it another way, WoEP would not be interested in the corridor if there were not the opportunity (as they see it) to use the Railway Path. They cannot identify any other viable option. A road route is simple incompatible with the requirements of BRT for "rapid transit" between stops, especially over a distance of 7 miles or so.

Surely Bristol City Council is a major player in the WoEP and able to insist that WoEP drop their plan to use the Railway Path? It is after all largely within Bristol's boundaries. Who is insisting that the plan remains - South Glos? What kind of "Partnership" is that?

Glenn Vowles said...

Sorry to heat about your health problem. Hope you are feeling a lot better now Jon.

Many thanks for the clarity and thoroughness of your reply.

I hope you will work with others to achieve what Chris neatly summarises

'...insist that WoEP drop their plan to use the Railway Path? It is after all largely within Bristol's boundaries.'

Chris Hutt said...

It seems that Jon Rogers was taken ill with chest pains on Wednesday night after the Civic Society meeting and spent the next 24 hrs or so in the BRI.

At the meeting Jon was on excellent form and gave a very commendable performance, holding forth for the best part of two hours. I believe he had come straight from another meeting.

I'm sure we're all aware of how hard Jon has been working in his new role over the last year, putting his heart and soul into it and going to great lengths to be answerable to the public, which means taking a fair amount of flak.

I'm also sure that we will all wish him a speedy recovery and appreciate that under the circumstances he may need to take things relatively easy for a while.

Anonymous said...


When you are better, can you explain what "corporate management and strategy" is and why it costs us more than £11,000,000 a year ?


Bristol Dave said...

I think the idea of a "cycling city" turning one of it's very few (and in my humble, best) cycling assets into a bus lane is just ridiculous.

I honestly (like everyone else) thought the BRT-on-cyclepath had been dropped for all the obvious reasons, not least the huge amount of public opposition.

I can't imagine the BRT when finished being a resounding success if First have anything to do with it anyway :-P

Anonymous said...

I think the transport job is probably the toughest to do in Bristol, after Leader. I've seen the recent portfolio holders feel the heat (Cllrs Holland, Brown and Bradshaw) and Cllr Mark Bradshaw visibly aged during the 20 months he was our (v effective) exec member (I'm an ex-BCC officer), although he had a bigger job than the one Jon currently has. I doubt this will change with a hostile press and impatient public. As for BRT, my view is that S Glos want it kept as an option for the railway path but libdems and labour want it removed. After losing the debate over ITA, Jon R is now weakened in the west of england partnership and Bristol's voice is a lot less influential than it was before the change in administration last Feb. For example, I was based in Brunel and overheard Cllr Bradshaw telling his S Glos counterpart that the railway path option had to be deleted and Bristol would block any attempt to develop it.


woodsy said...

Anonymous 1 said:

"How about a route from BTM to Emerson's Green that makes use of the abandoned space running alongside the Severn Beach line from BTM to St Werburgh's, then a slip road onto the M32 through Eastgate?"

From what I've heard from knowledgeable railway friends, there are plans to reinstate the missing double track formation from Dr Days Junction to past Narroways Junction and up Filton Bank to increase capacity, although these plans are at a very early stage in the process. If this were done, your suggestion would not be possible.

At any rate, I cannot understand the WoEP's fixation with buses when it comes to public transport. WoEP seems blind to all other modes: a fine example of bureaucratic perspicacity.

SteveL said...

Part of the problem is that govt funding of railway stuff is very messy, and if you look at UK tram projects things can go massively over budget fast. In Edinburgh they've had to cut short the route as it cost way more per mile to strengthen the roads.

This is a shame, as the portishead railway and an improved severn beach line with better linkage to the north fringe would benefit the city.

woodsy said...

@SteveL: improved severn beach line with better linkage to the north fringe would benefit the city.

I cannot disagree with that. All the track is already in place to provide a circular service rejoining the main line somewhere near Filton. Would I be right in thinking S Gloucestershire Council's decision to sell off the old Henbury station buildings some time ago was a fine example of official foresight in anticipation of such enhanced services as you are suggesting?

Anonymous said...

Very intresting the comments on the BRT and the 'proposed route'. Or thought to be proposed route.
One point the BRT could only run alongside the Severn Beach line as far as the junction where the SBL joins the main line. For there is no way that National Rail will replace the second railway bridge at Stapleton Road, (there are two bridges, one used and one dis-used). the disused is so, because it is not safe to run a light engine over, due to the buttresses moving during the summer of 1976 (remember it ?)
To replace the bridge would mean the closure of Stapleton Road for at least 9 months, as the bridge has to have almost 500 tones of ballast and dirt removed, which will close or at least entail single line working on the mainline for a few days (up to 2 weeks) as it would not be possable to get machinery onto the bridge, so it would all be done by hand, loading the material on to open wagons parked on the mainline. Whilst all of this was going on nothing, traffic or pedestrians would be allowed to pass underneath the bridge.

Then the steel work of the structure could then be cut up, ( it is estimated to be in excess of 1,000 tons of steel and wrought iron, this again can only be done with the FULL closure of Stapleton Road. It is estimated that the whole opperation would take 3-4 months, then the new bridge would have to be constructed. 2-3 months at least.
All the time Stapleton Road would be CLOSED.
So where would all the traffic go ?

What about all the business that would be effected.

Just a thought or two to keep you all occupied - if you doubt any of this look in the records office or the archives of the 'Post it was all published in 1976/77 when they (BR) closed the bridge.

Anonymous said...

When Avon County Council, propossed developing Cribbs Causway the Public Transport officer (in charge at the time, Malcomb) advised several people, in writing, that the roads around and into the developement had the capacity to deal with the traffic, so that when the road layout was planned there was seen to be no need for the provision of 'Bus Only Lanes' etc.

Pat Hockey (of Avon C.C.) now of South Glos was the chair of the Committee that approved the development and the none provision of the Bus Only lanes.

I do still have the notes from all the meetings as well as the plans, for the transport links put forward by many, including Richard Cottrell (he of Avon Metro fame)

We all know how much has been spent on the bus only lanes to date, (So much for for-sight and planning for the future).

Henbury Station would be usless as a station for Cribbs Causway as it is too far from the developement.

What Bristol and South Glos., Council's both lack is common sense and gumption.

A NEW Rail link to Cribbs would be the answer linking the Severn Beach line and Parkway station.

With regards to the Portishead to Bristol Railway, why go to Temple Meads? Just because it is there ?
Why not use the existing travel plans, of commutors, which there has been many done.

Not many people want to travel into Temple Meads - in case no-one has noticed there are very few Offices and Business close by to the station.

It would make far more sense (if such is available in Bristol) to build a bascule bridge across the Avon and link Portishead to the Severn Beach Line. Having the shuttle train only travelling to the Shirehampton Park and Ride site, (moving the platform from it's preseent site to the P&R) so we would then have INTERGRATED transport hub.
The shuttle train could go from Portishead to the P&R then up to Avonmouth and on to a new station at Severnside terminatng at Severn Beach, back to the P&R then on to Portishead. thereby NOT interfering with the main line trains.

Just a thought form the WoEP and Jon to ponder over - and of course keep poor consultants out of the Job Centre.

Obsydian said...

"Not many people want to travel into Temple Meads - in case no-one has noticed there are very few Offices and Business close by to the station."

From where I'm looking, and from my cycle in this morning, there are plenty of businesses and offices in the area around Temple Meads and Redcliffe, with the centre only a short walk away.

For my wife and I, the cycle path is a gift for getting into work, town and back. The first part of the ride, a little over a mile to get to the cycle path from Speedwell/Kingswood is not so pleasant and safe, but the cycle path (assuming you miss the shcool kids) is a pleasure to ride. My wife takes this route despite working in Pioneer park, where the obvious road route would greatly increase her chnaces of becoming another statistic

Anonymous said...

Obsydian said...

From where I'm looking, and from my cycle in this morning, there are plenty of businesses and offices in the area around Temple Meads and Redcliffe, with the centre only a short walk away.

I can not disagree with your point Obsydian, BUT. to run trains to Temple Meads has several implecations and problems; such as finding a 'Path' for the Portishead trains onto the BTM main line, then finding cross paths, for the return train to Portishead.

There are not many offices around BTM, I did realise that temple Quay etc. etc are arond, BUT in the vastness of inner Bristol the majority of offices could be better searved by buses.
Also Buses run closer together can overtake and are flexible in route, look at the closure of the Portlway (due to high tides etc..) A very high tide would CLOSE the Portished line, and then it would have to be inspected as would another rock fall, as we had about 4 years ago.
Wheras if the idea of a line across the Avon linking Avonmouth to Portishead. It would be possible to have 2 trains running as one was en-route to and from Severnbeach the other could be en-route back to/or coming from Portishead. So offering a high frequency service and linking into the all ready available (underused) P&R and Railway.
That is if FOSBR got their collective head out of the sand and agreed to the moving of Shirehampton station from its lonely and little used location platform to the P&R site.

Anonymous said...

Anon said...

I can not disagree with your point Obsydian, BUT. to run trains to Temple Meads has several implecations and problems; such as finding a 'Path' for the Portishead trains onto the BTM main line, then finding cross paths, for the return train to Portishead.

Network Rails strategy for the Great Western area for the next 30 years was released on the 1st March:

It identifies infrastructure enhancements around Bristol Temple Meads to remove performance bottlenecks and to boost capacity including:

- Extension of the existing carriage line from Bristol Temple Meads to Parson Street to create a four track section for passenger trains

- Development of three or four tracks between Dr Days Junction and Filton Abbey Wood

Appreciate that this is a 30 year strategy, but if Bristol was really forward thinking then they should be watching the Tram/Train trail in Yorkshire.

If this is successful then rail could go to Temple Meads from Portishead, Yate, Weston, Bath, Severn Beach etc and then round an inner tram circuit serving all city centre destinations addressing your concerns about Temple Meads slightly peripheral location.


Woodburner said...

@anonymous on 28/2 13.35
This would give more credence to the Easton Expressway proposed by Josh Hart, which seems to have sunk without trace. If the bridge is unlikely ever to be in a state to carry rolling stock, and is impractical to dismantle, how about the Expressway over the M32 for bikes & pedestrians? (relatively)Cheap and would make a huge difference to the communities severed by the motorway, and improve non-car travelling time and safety which is currently rubbish in that area

Martyn said...

Could this be why they have extended the lighting beyond Fishponds as this increases the viability of BRT? Surely the minimal use of the path at night does not justify the installment of street lighting anyway.

Docsavage said...

RIP Chris.

you'll be missed.

Bluebaldee said...

RIP Chris - you will be missed.

Unknown said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing this wonderful and useful information with us.

Green Tea Weight Loss

Michael said...

I like this post because it is informative and helpful to all readers. I would like to revisit this post.
Green Certification

lee said...

Could always go for a tram system.

bristol designer said...

If they are going to destroy the railway path I think it's despicable that they should even contemplate turning it into a transport link. It has been used for over a decade providing people with some of the best views of the Avon Valley and one of the safest routs to ride a bike, why on Earth would they want to discourage people from cycling? Come on, This is Bristol!