Chance missed to build cheaper tram system
BRISTOL City Council rejected the chance to build a tram system despite figures showing it would be cheaper than the proposed new Bus Rapid Transit link, it has been claimed.
At the inquiry into the new £50 million guided bus route yesterday, tram company Sustraco said that the alternative was not given "proper consideration".
The company, which had submitted proposals for a £15 million light railway, claims that the council changed the estimated costs of the project before rejecting it.
The company also accused the cabinet member for transport, Tim Kent, of saying something "untrue" when he announced that a report outlining the decision to chose the bus system over trams had been discussed at a meeting where the tram company put its case.
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Documents submitted to the inquiry show that Sustraco were invited to submit a proposal for an alternative to the BRT.
Their initial proposal put the cost of a new tram link at £14.57 million. But the company claims that, at a meeting in April last year, their figures were "arbitrarily" changed to £38.9 million.
Similarly, they claimed that their estimate of passenger numbers on the Ashton Gate to Temple Meads section was reduced by almost one million.
A meeting was arranged by the then cabinet member for transport, Gary Hopkins, for Sustraco to present a detailed response to the changes.
The meeting on May 27 was chaired by Mr Hopkins' successor in the role, Mr Kent, and Sustraco presented their case, showing that their proposals met all the requirements at a lower cost than the bus link.
Sustraco claimed that Mr Kent announced at the end of the meeting that the council had already decided "before the meeting" that the bus option would be chosen.
On returning from the meeting, Sustraco officials said they found they had been sent e-mails with a 34-page report attached.
The report, which Sustraco said was written before the meeting, detailed the decision without considering evidence submitted in the meeting.
At the inquiry at Armada House, Robert Chard from Sustraco told the inspector: "The council's declared interest to include ULR [ultra light railway] was insincere.
"The requirements and costs have not been properly and equitably considered.
"The promoters have made numerous errors and miscalculated the costs. The conclusions do not include the option with the best value to the public purse."
James Skinner, chairman of Sustraco, told the inquiry that Mr Kent had said in a radio interview that the 34-page report favouring the BRT had been discussed in the meeting.
"This was simply untrue," Mr Skinner told the inquiry.
"The whole thing was a sham and a waste of money," he added.
The inquiry continues.