Plans for bendy buses in Bristol dumped by council bosses
CONTROVERSIAL plans to bring unpopular bendy buses to Bristol have been dramatically dumped by council bosses.
The decision from transport chiefs has come after more than five years of opposition to the £200 million scheme, which has been described as "a dog's dinner" by one campaigner.
Liberal Democrat bosses have also announced that they are considering introducing Dutch-style cycle only lanes in the city as part of a major rethink on the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system.
It has also emerged that a new bus stop will be built at Temple Meads rail station with the aim of linking the rail network and BRT system more closely.
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The project, which aims to create guided bus routes between the city centre and Ashton Vale, and between Bristol's north fringe and Hengrove, has been hit by a series of embarrassing problems and false starts including criticisms about the lack of a dedicated stop at Temple Meads.
The announcement to drop bendy buses was made by deputy council leader Jon Rogers who is also standing as the Liberal Democrat candidate for elected mayor.
Several other candidates in the running to be the city's first elected mayor have expressed grave doubts about the scheme and at least three have said they want to see it scrapped.
But the Lib Dems are claiming the £120 million funding for the project, which was announced by the Coalition Government earlier this year, could be lost if the project is delayed.
Transport chiefs at the council say they have dropped the idea of using bendy buses – articulated vehicles – on the proposed BRT routes and are now looking at using longer, single-decker eco-friendly buses with several doors to allow quick entry and exit.
Dr Rogers said: "These buses will cost less and, thus, allow us to put more of them on and increase frequencies on our routes.
"This is part of a package of radical changes we are now proposing for BRT.
"For instance, we will also be scrapping the bus stop on the Temple Way roundabout and bringing the rapid transit system right into Temple Meads railway station.
"We are looking to upgrade the cycling provision to provide much more dedicated cycling infrastructure, with Dutch-style cycle paths separated from both the road and pedestrians."
The Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Norman Baker was in Bristol last week to take a look at the details of the BRT scheme.
During the visit he underlined the conditions under which the government had agreed to fund £113 million towards the £200 million project.
Dr Rogers added: "While opposition parties and some mayoral candidates have called for the whole BRT project to be halted, Mr Baker made it plain that the government was very unlikely to fund an alternative scheme.
"What is more, it will cost the Bristol taxpayer around £9 million just to reimburse our partner authorities for their costs so far.
"And that doesn't include the figure of around £8 million or £9 million which we have already spent and would be wasted."
The Transport for Greater Bristol Group has been opposed to the idea of bendy buses from the outset.
Ian Crawford, from the group, said; "The whole thing has been a bit of a dog's dinner right from the beginning.
"It was becoming apparent that the scheme was not going to work in its current form and something needed to be done."
Independent mayoral candidate George Ferguson said: "To be honest the Liberal Democrats have been squirming over this one.
"Their position is that we will lose the money from government but I think that we should wait until after the election rather than rushing into something that might not work."
Guy Kingston, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "I don't think the council knows what it is doing on this.
"They keep changing their mind and giving us different excuses but the fact is BRT will be terrible for small businesses."