Opponents put case against bendy bus plan
OBJECTORS have opened their case against plans to create a £50 million bendy bus route from Bristol city centre to Ashton Vale at a public inquiry.
After hearing evidence in support of the public transport system from backers Bristol and North Somerset councils for nine days, opponents yesterday got a chance to have their say.
Opponents explained to a planning inspector that the proposed route would harm the historic city docks, the harbour railway and Prince Street Bridge.
They told the hearing at Armada House, off Baldwin Street, that the bus route would wreck the appearance of the Floating Harbour, increase air pollution, erode the charm of the harbour railway and cost more than anticipated.
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The inquiry was told that Bristol Civic Society had suggested an alternative route for the buses, which involved vehicles travelling along Cumberland Road and Wapping Road rather than alongside the city docks in front of the M shed museum.
Maggie Shapland, from Bristol Industrial Archeological Society, said the two councils were "in fervent pursuit" of a scheme which did not serve a main area of the city.
She said that a bottleneck would form on Prince Street Bridge because there could be as many as one bus per minute running over the listed structure, and vehicles could be held up for up to 30 minutes a time when bridge swings were taking place.
Ms Shapland said the bridge was suitable for use by light traffic and pedestrians but not heavy traffic.
She accused the two councils of proposing to plough the bulk of the cash allocated for the scheme into a part of the route which would prove to result in the slowest travelling speeds, in reference to the section running through the harbour.
Referring to projected passenger numbers provided by the councils, she said only three of the proposed 10 stops along the route would be heavily used.
David Martin, representing Bristol Harbour Railway, said he was concerned engineering costs would overrun as they had on public transport projects in Edinburgh and Cambridge.
Mr Martin said the railway would lose its charm and its "clickety-click" noise if it were replaced by a modern rail line to accommodate the bus route.
James Smith, of the civic society, said the council's conservation specialists had not properly taken into account how the city docks would look if buses were running through them.
He said the conservation report had only considered the building work which needed to be carried out to create the route.
Mr Smith said: "It does not take account of the vehicles running on it. It's like approving the M1 and saying it will be fine without any cars running on it."
Stephen Wickham, also of the civic society, said he objected to plans to demolish Jubilee House to make way for the route. He said: "The front facade is of some merit. It's part of the maritime heritage in its original purpose."
The public inquiry will decide the fate of the Government-backed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which would see buses running on a guided route both on and off road from 2015. It is not clear whether bendy buses, double deckers, or other vehicles will be used.
The inquiry, which is being heard because objections were made against the plans, started last month and is set to last six weeks.