£1.2 billion cash boost for Bristol - if traffic could be sorted out
AN incredible £1.2 billion a year would pour into Bristol's economy if traffic congestion in the area was finally sorted out, it has been claimed.
Experts have said for years that economic growth – and particularly new jobs – have been stifled by daily traffic hold-ups. But now a team of consultants have crunched the numbers to find out just how much it would mean to Bristol and the surrounding area.
They have worked out that if nothing is done to improve travel, then 14,300 jobs will be created in the years up to 2030.
But if eight major schemes which are in the pipeline go ahead, then they would bring an extra 20,000 jobs into the region.
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These extra jobs include what is known as the "multiplier effect" – the additional jobs which are created when people have money in their pockets.
Jonathan Foster-Clark, from consultants Atkins, outlined the results of the research at a meeting of the West of England Partnership yesterday.
Afterwards, South Gloucestershire councillor Brian Allinson, who chairs the partnership's Joint Transport Executive, said: "We have always realised the huge effect that transport improvements can bring – that's why we have always been keen to forge ahead with new schemes as fast as we can."
The partnership is planning to go ahead with eight major schemes, which will cost a total of £337 million.
But Mr Foster-Clark said if they were all completed, then they would bring £1.2 billion a year to the local economy.
In his report, he said: "There are problems on the transport networks in the West of England.
"Local roads are often congested, buses are seen as expensive and slow, rail services are infrequent and only cover certain areas, and some areas have poor access to the motorway network.
"Our modelling shows that increased numbers of people living and working in the West of England will place much greater strain on the network.
"Failure to improve local bus and rail services will constrain people's travel choices, and significant increases in traffic will cause widespread and severe congestion.
"We predict that the transport schemes will unlock a large increase in the future economic output of the West of England, of about £1.2 billion per annum by 2030.
"Of this, around £600 million could be unlocked through the five major schemes currently being delivered and the balance would be unlocked from rail schemes, the Temple Quarter package and the M49 new junction."
Mr Foster-Clark said reducing journey times not only reduced the operating costs for firms but also made it easier for commuters to travel from further afield.
He said the Bristol region was relatively prosperous compared with other conurbations such as Leeds or Manchester.
But transport was the "key constraint" in unlocking growth in the area, he said.
There is potential for up to 70,000 jobs in the region, according to previous estimates reported by The Post.
Interestingly, it is the Weston package, including improvements to the busy M5 Junction 21, which would be most cost-effective. It would only cost £9 million but generate £172 million for the local economy.
A new £16 million junction on the M49, which would create a shortcut to the Avonmouth industrial hinterland would generate a massive £242 million.
Other schemes include the bus rapid transit network and various rail projects, such as the Greater Bristol Metro and transport improvements in Bath.
The consultants asked the business community for their views.
Some of their comments included:
â "If the schemes do not go ahead, there will be real limitations on businesses' ability to grow, as poor transport infrastructure is a significant restraint on growth."
â "Businesses in the south of Bristol are at a real disadvantage compared with the north of the city due to poor transport connections."
â "The area needs a public transport network that is part of daily life as it is in London and that allows people to use public transport as a default choice."