Bristol mayor George Ferguson gets his way on rapid transport route change
BRISTOL'S mayor has been given the go-ahead from the Government to change controversial plans to run a new transport system through the Harbourside.
George Ferguson had previously told The Post he was not happy with the route of the Bus Rapid Transit system from the Long Ashton Park and Ride to the city centre. He said he did not want to see buses on the new route running alongside the Harbourside in front of the M shed museum.
He also made it clear that he did not want the buses on Prince Street Bridge, and a review has been set up to look for an alternative route.
The mayor was warned that changes to the scheme could put grants worth more than £140 million at risk.
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But at a meeting in London yesterday Mr Ferguson was told by transport minister Norman Baker and government officials he could make changes to the route without losing the money.
The meeting was attended by Mr Baker, the Local Enterprise Partnership and MPs from across the Bristol area. Transport was top of the agenda at the meeting but a number of other issues were also up for discussion.
Mr Ferguson said: "The meeting went really well and we were pleased with the outcome.
"The Minister and the Department for Transport have agreed with the principle of changing the route of the BRT.
"We have been given the go-ahead to make the changes, subject to a full review and a full business case being put together."
South Bristol Labour MP Dawn Primarolo had claimed that "tinkering" with the BRT could see the funding being axed.
She had warned that any attempt to use BRT funding for alternative transport proposals, hinted at by Mr Ferguson during the mayoral election campaign, would fail and "see years more delay while congestion gets worse".
The Government decision will be seen as a major victory for the new mayor – and a defeat for the previous Liberal Democrat cabinet, which was responsible for the proposals.
Groups opposed to the route include the Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, the Bristol Civic Society, Tram company Sustraco, cycling charity Sustrans and the Ramblers Association, who made their objections clear at a public inquiry into the route held last summer.
The civic society said the system would do substantial harm to the appearance and character of the area, were 42 buses per hour to pass along the dockside.
Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance member Pip Sheard said: "It is good news that the rapid transit system will not be running through the Harbourside but we are also not supporting the alternative.
"What we want is improvements to Hotwell Road and then investment made in cycle routes in the city centre."
Mr Ferguson told The Post he has ordered a review of the system and has been talking to transport experts in Whitehall about the changes.
But he said: "This will have to take place pretty quickly as we are working to a timetable."