Inquiry opens into £50m bendy bus route
A PUBLIC inquiry to decide the fate of the proposed new £50 million bendy bus route between Bristol city centre and Ashton Vale has begun.
The inquiry started yesterday at Armada House, off Baldwin Street, and is set to last six weeks.
The hearing is being held because a string of objections were made against plans to create a guided bus route, known as a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, linking the city with North Somerset.
During the course of the inquiry, planning inspector Christopher Millns will hear evidence from opponents representing 35 groups, including the Bristol Civic Society, Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance and Bristol Friends of the Earth.
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He will also be addressed by 16 witnesses from applicants Bristol City Council and North Somerset Council, who will attempt to convince him the project should be given the green light.
In opening the inquiry, Mr Millns told the 50-strong audience that the hearing would focus on the proposed stretch of the BRT route between Long Ashton park-and-ride and the Prince Street bridge.
Mr Millns said the two councils were seeking permission to acquire land, alter public rights of way, demolish Jubilee House in Wapping Road, realign the Bristol Harbour Railway and make changes to Prince Street bridge and Ashton Avenue swing bridge as part of the plans.
He said a total of 204 objections had been made against the planned route, which involves buses travelling on the road as well as on sections of guided concrete track from 2015.
Robin Purchas QC, representing the two councils, said it was important the BRT route was introduced because Bristol had some of the most congested roads and slowest moving traffic in the country, as well as substandard air quality.
He said the congestion was costing millions of pounds to the local economy and would only worsen as Bristol expanded.
Mr Purchas said the BRT system was a "higher quality, reliable and easy to use and understand" mode of transport with modern vehicles and its own right of way.
He said the system was aimed at getting people out of their cars and onto a public transport route which would serve Temple Meads and the newly designated Enterprise Zone nearby.
The barrister, who said it was "demonstrably in the public interest" for the route to be built, added that the planned work to the two historic bridges would strengthen them without spoiling their appearance.
The city council's service director for transport Peter Mann said the BRT route was one element of the council's comprehensive transport strategy which included the Greater Bristol Bus Network (GBBN), proposed improved rail services, 20mph speed limits and residents' parking zones.
He said: "BRT will be a significant uplift in quality for public transport and will complement the GBBN and the rail improvements the councils are promoting.
"Overall, the attractiveness of the public transport network will be enhanced. It will encourage more use and with parking controls will see a shift away from cars to other modes."
The Government has already pledged £30 million towards the scheme, with the remainder coming from councils.