Bendy buses will get held up in Bristol traffic, inquiry told
BRISTOL should invest in its rail network rather than pour millions of pounds into a new bendy bus route, a public inquiry heard.
Opponents of the proposed £50 million Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route between Bristol city centre and Ashton Vale said vehicles using the route would get held up in the city's traffic-clogged streets, resulting in unimproved journey times.
Christina Biggs, of the 200-member pressure group the Friends Of Suburban Bristol Railways (FOSBR), yesterday spoke out against BRT at an inquiry being held to decide the route's fate. She said commuters were more likely to quit travelling into the city by car if a decent rail service was available as an alternative.
Mrs Biggs said: "I don't think BRT will cause a modal shift to the bus. If you promoted light rail or heavy rail, people are more likely to shift."
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She said Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council, the two authorities behind the BRT plans, should consider light rail rather than a guided bus way, which she said was now considered an outdated system.
Mrs Biggs said: "There has been a culture shift towards light rail. Norman Baker (transport minister) is promoting light rail.
"We maintain that bus is an old culture promoted by the previous government and the BRT proposal is a relic of that.
"It's out of fashion and we should be thinking about the new system of light rail."
Mrs Biggs also said FOSBR were concerned that the BRT route would involve making changes to the harbour railway, ending the possibility of it being expanded and brought back into use for passenger services by connecting it to the main network.
She said: "You could lay the tracks down again. The trains used to run from Ashton Gate, across the swing bridge to Wapping Wharf and through a tunnel under St Mary Redcliffe to Temple Meads.
"You could have a light rail system down to M shed. It's more aesthetically pleasing than a bus, which would bring more noise and pollution and destroy the ambiance of the harbourside.
"I don't think the BRT would bring a big improvement when travelling from Temple Meads because buses will be running along the normal congested roads. It's only on the guided section (between Cumberland Road and Ashton Vale) that things would speed up."
Of using a light rail system instead, she told the inquiry: "Something quieter and more unobtrusive would be worth the extra cost."
On the 11th day of the inquiry, being held at Armada House, off Baldwin Street, planning inspector Christopher Millns also heard from transport campaigner Brian Lomas.
Mr Lomas, representing Tram Forward, the campaigning arm of Light Rail Transit Association, backed Mrs Biggs' view that investing in rail was the best way forward.
He said the benefit of a light rail system was it was a "completely guided system", as opposed to the less reliable BRT, which would run on roads as well as along guided sections of bus way.
Mr Lomas, who believes tram trains could eventually serve the city centre from Temple Meads, said: "We feel this is the wrong route and the wrong mode. It's come largely, I believe, from the pressure that it's very difficult to get a tramway approved.
"This is a poor system and will have little benefit to Bristol. It's a big expenditure at a difficult economic time.
"We should look at a properly integrated system, based around the current rail system we have."
The inquiry, which started last month, is set to last six weeks.