£100 million Bristol Metro train network by 2016
THE £100-million Bristol Metro train network which will bring massive improvements to local railways is to go ahead with the first services running by 2016.
It comes as a result of the City Deal agreed between local council and the Government which was announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. It will mean the line to Portishead being re-opened and trains running to the town again within four years. The Henbury line will also re-open in 2018 as part of the plans. The list of new and re-opened stations include:
â Ashton Gate
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â Ashley Hill
â and Henbury
They will form part of a local rail network that supporters hope will see trains running every half an hour.
The dramatic improvements are part of the £1 billion deal, which the Post revealed yesterday, and which was confirmed by treasury minister Danny Alexander on a visit to Bristol.
The City Deal has been agreed between Westminster and councils in Bristol and the surrounding area which promises to revolutionise the way the area is run.
The plans also include the re-opening of the so-called Henbury Loop in north Bristol.
The fine details of the deal, which will see money raised in parts of the city through business rates kept in Bristol, were still being worked on as late as Wednesday night.
Mr Alexander claimed the deal represents a revolution in the way the city is run and financed and will see power shifted back from Westminster to the West Country.
The minister said: "Local leaders and strong leadership are essential to the future prosperity of Britain's cities. These new powers will allow Bristol and the surrounding area to decide its own priorities for local public transport and flexibility on skills training – benefiting both employers and young people.
"By allowing Bristol to keep the business rates growth in its Enterprise Areas, this deal will support up to £1 billion of investment locally.
"This unique deal will hugely benefit ordinary people and businesses in Bristol. It also marks an important step in Government's commitment to decentralise power and re-balance local economies."
The Enterprise Zone set up around Temple Meads station is set to be at the centre of economic growth for the city. All the money raised in the area in business rates will be kept in the city to fund major public projects and improvements to the road network in the city centre.
Talks are taking place to bring the BBC to the Enterprise Zone and to build a 12,000-seat indoor arena on vacant land close to the station.
Around £500 million would be raised but the four local authorities in the region have been given permission to raise loans against the expected revenue with immediate effect.
Mr Alexander believes the City Deal and Bristol's decision to opt for an elected mayor will give it a major advantage over other regional rivals. He said: "What we are doing is giving Bristol the chance to shape its own destiny, and an elected mayor will certainly help in shaping that process. This is a deal and of course we expect something in return in terms of jobs and economic growth but what we are doing is putting the building blocks in place for the future of Bristol and the region."
The deal has seen Bristol council working alongside North Somer- set, South Gloucester- shire and Bath and North East Somerset councils. There are also plans to create a new public body or company to take control of transport across the Bristol region.
The Local Enterprise Partnership, the organisation which replaced the South West Regional Development Agency, has played a key role in the negotiations.
Colin Skellet, the chairman of the organisation, said: "I think this is great for Bristol and the surrounding area and has come after a lot of negotiations. This is the first time the benefits of economic growth will be ploughed straight back into the city rather than being redistributed elsewhere."
He added: "This announcement is a massive vote of confidence from Government in our region's businesses to drive growth and create jobs. It is also an excellent example of what can be achieved by the four local authorities and business working together so effectively. This is a deal for hi-tech growth that builds on the West of England's strengths in engineering, the digital and creative sectors. It gives us unprecedented input into the skills training of our young people to ensure we're meeting the future needs of businesses across the city and region."
Bristol City Council leader Simon Cook said: "The package represents a historic devolution of powers from Whitehall that we have long argued for. It is very good news that business rates will be back in local hands and that we will be able to borrow against those revenues to invest in development. For the first time we'll have the ability to drive our own economic strategy and make the much-needed investment in our infrastructure, in particular in our rail system which is in urgent need of more capacity."
Business leaders also welcomed the announcement. Michael Bothamley, president of Bristol Chamber of Commerce, said: "This is fantastic news, it provides a huge boost for business and our wider community and will help stimulate investor confidence in this area. Investment on this scale into our local rail infrastructure, to boost skills and help create the space for new jobs, are things business has been asking for and are what this deal is all about. It's proof that government is backing what we have all been saying – that this city region will deliver substantial new private sector job growth.
"Very significantly, it provides the financial incentive for our local authorities to further support economic growth and job creation. It's also another success for close partnership working between business and local government through our Local Enterprise Partnership."
Bristol is one of eight cities across the UK to have agreed a deal with the Government.
The city's MPs were broadly supportive although Labour's Kerry McCarthy declined to make a comment.
Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for Bristol North West, said the announcement was a "game-changer" for the city. She said: "This is obviously fantastic news. The Government has recognised just how central proper transport infrastructure is to Bristol. It really has been lacking in relation to other cities."
City leaders will need to work with neighbouring local authorities to manage the investment, which ministers said would boost the economy by up to £1 billion.
Kingswood Tory MP Chris Skidmore said: "This is a milestone moment for Bristol and the surrounding region. Never has so much power or funds been given back from Whitehall to the local community.
"This deal is about trusting local businesses and organisations who know how the region should be run best, giving them freedom to decide our city's destiny rather than the old-fashioned top-down 'We know best' approach of the state. This is an exciting time for Bristol."
Bristol West Lib Dem MP Stephen Williams added: "This deal will give local leaders the power and money to grow the Greater Bristol economy and transform our transport. I'm pleased to have helped in the negotiations."
The fine pine print of the package includes:
â A new growth incentive and the economic investment fund, which will allow West of England to keep 100 per cent of growth in business rates over 25 years to invest in projects, allowing authorities to deliver an investment programme worth £1 billion over 30 years.
â Ten years of major funding allocation for the Greater Bristol Metro; flexible delivery for the Bus Rapid Transit Network which will allow savings to be recycled locally; and new powers over rail planning and delivery.
â A Public Property Board will manage up to £1 billion of city council assets and an estimated 180 land and property assets to unlock more land for economic growth or housing and to lever in additional investment.
â A city growth hub with up to £2.25 million of government funding which will provide additional support to inward investors. This will be based in the Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone and will work closely with UK Trade and Investment.
â The business community and local enterprise partnership will have more influence in skills provision in the city region, in particular the £114 million Skills Funding Agency funding for Further Education colleges for post-16 provision, to help capture employer demand.