Protesters attack £4.5m spend on bendybus plan
PROTESTERS opposed to plans for new bendybus routes in Bristol have attacked transport chiefs for agreeing to spend £4.5 million on a scheme which may end up being scrapped.
Opponents of the bus rapid transit (BRT) project have criticised city councillors for pledging to spend the cash on a proposed new route which could be derailed by a planning inspector next month.
They say no further money should be spent on BRT2, a proposed new £50 million guided bus route from Ashton Vale to the city centre, until a planning inspector delivers his verdict on a six-week public inquiry held into the project in the summer.
One campaigner, Maggie Shapland, accused the council of "undermining" the planning inspector by investing millions in further preparatory work on BRT2.
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Ms Shapland, from Bristol Industrial Archeological Society, gave evidence against the scheme at the £1 million planning inquiry.
She told a meeting of the council's cabinet last night that the bus route would harm the heritage of the city docks and the listed Prince Street bridge.
Pip Sheard, of Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance, was among the group of 30 protesters who staged a demonstration against the planned route outside the Council House before the meeting.
She said: "The council could end up spending £4.5 million and the inspector might say 'no' and the money will be wasted. We feel the BRT2 scheme is pointless, expensive and will have a severe impact on the harbour."
Tim Kent, city councillor responsible for transport, said the preparatory work needed to go ahead otherwise a deadline would be missed and the cost of the project would escalate.
He said: "We have a lot of development work to do. The scheme is based on hitting targets on time and on budget. To delay it would have an impact on the budget. Delays would cost hundreds of thousands of pounds or even more."
Mr Kent said that if the BRT routes failed to go ahead, other transport schemes such as the Bristol Metro rail improvements may also be sidelined, adding: "How many times do people in Bristol want to rip up a project at the last minute when funding is in place?"
In a written statement to the cabinet meeting, Tory mayoral candidate Geoff Gollop called for start-up funding for the bendybus scheme to be shelved until after the mayoral election. He said there were major concerns about the BRT system but the paperwork was being rushed through.
He said: "BRT is proving a major area of debate in the Mayoral contest and there are areas of particular concern with regard to its implementation. It would appear that this decision is being made to force the hand of the Elected Mayor, whoever that may be.
"I urge Cabinet to defer the decision until after the Mayoral election has taken place so that the Mayor and Cabinet may make the ultimate decision."
He was supported by Bristol North West Tory MP Charlotte Leslie, who said: "It is clear to me that this eye-watering sum of money – which will be committed even before any work begins – must be reviewed. Of course we want effective transport for Bristol but there is a legacy of ill-thought out schemes in this city."