Use the money for other transport schemes
I AM writing on behalf of the Stop BRT2 group in response to Councillor Brian Allinson's recent letter.
He implied that the West of England Partnership won government funds for their three Bristol Rapid Transit schemes due to the quality of their funding applications against competition from other local councils.
This was not the case. It was originally intended that the October 2011 funding round should be a competition between councils for restricted funds. However, George Osborne announced that enough money would be found to fund all UK transport schemes submitted so the Department for Transport did not have to choose between them.
Had the partnership chosen the Portishead rail line reopening instead and done the necessary work (possible following a rule change in 2008 allowing rail schemes) as urged by transport groups and submitted it in place of one of the BRT schemes, it would now have the funding.
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Instead, we now have to wait for funding for it under the City Deal which may or may not come in the next government (no one is clear about this).
The partnership made the wrong rapid transit choices over the past four years. They are now defending their chosen schemes which are unpopular and in economic and public transport terms unviable. £11.3m has been spent locally working up BRT schemes since 2008/9.
Many Bristol residents oppose the use of the Harbour and Prince Street bridge for any of the three BRT bus services. See our petition to the mayor on the www.stopbrt2.org.uk website.
They are not prepared to sacrifice the use of the bridge and the Avon New Cut's rail line to a concrete guideway.
Not so that an overpriced, heavily subsidised and unknown BRT3 vehicle run by an unknown BRT3 bus operator can queue up behind a string of other buses coming over the bridge before it hits peak hour traffic in the city, misses Temple Meads and then which goes on an all round the houses route in South Gloucesterhsire. Whatever BRT3 is, it isn't Rapid Transit.
Spending millions more on planning applications and public inquiries for BRT3 and South Bristol link is not a good use of public money or anybody's time over the next two years.
Better to pull the plug on the BRT network now and ask the government for the same funds for other schemes before this government ends in 2015 and the funding time limit expires.
Coming from Councillor Allinson, a request to Ministers to spend the Government BRT funds on local rail or other schemes instead might not sound convincing while he maintains the partnership's official stance that there is merit in local BRT proposals. So he should reconsider.
The history of Bristol's Executive Members for Transport taking the public flak for the partnership's BRT schemes has come to an end with the election of George Ferguson who is not a BRT supporter and stood on a' review BRT and renegotiate with the government to spend the money on other schemes' platform and was duly elected. He now has a clear public mandate for this.
What the partnership haven't clearly explained to the public is their deal with the government to obtain the £113m government funds for the three BRT schemes.
To receive this sum, (Bristol City Cabinet report July 2012) Bristol will have to pay £41m, North Somerset £21m and South Gloucestershire's £30m in addition.BRT is not a free lunch. Local councils are also signed up to pay 100% of any capital overrun. Bristol are paying 59 per cent of the costs of BRT preparatory work.
The whole BRT network funding deal is unsustainable. Bristol can't afford their BRT contribution (Council officers can't tell us where it is coming from) we doubt North Somerset can, perhaps South Glocs do have their £30m.
It is time for Councillors Allinson and Ap Rees to join Mayor Ferguson in meetings with Ministers and civil servants to renegotiate the BRT deal firstly as a more financially sustainable and integrated package, secondly to get Government funds spent on rail, non-BRT bus improvements and setting up an Integrated Transport Authority and thirdly for an extended time limit for scheme delivery.
I am sure residents of South Glos will have their own rail and bus shopping list for Councillor Allinson to consider. North Somerset (and Bristol) residents have been waiting far too long for Portishead.If the Partnership were united on this, a favourable outcome would be far more likely.
Local residents now sense that BRT is heading towards the exit sign, so it is time to cease spending public money on it.
This would also save a lot of staff (and consultant) time which could be better spent on detailed planning for the first stages of a locally controlled rail metro, developing long term strategies for bus/rail/cycle integration and bus passenger growth and establishing the framework for a local ITA.
on behalf of Stop BRT2
I WAS surprised to read Councillor Brian Allinson's recent defence of the rapid transit proposals.
I thought that it was now generally accepted that the idea is deeply flawed and a very expensive way of travelling not very rapidly.
Councillor Allinson is barking up the wrong tree and no matter how long he barks, it won't turn into the right tree.
IT MUST surely be time for mayor George Ferguson's local and regional transport partners to give up the ghost on the ill-thought out and discredited BRT schemes.
The mayor has consistently asked for a renegotiation of this central government funding and I am sure all Bristol residents (as well as those in Portishead and North Somerset who have been waiting for years for the train line to reopen) would like to see some movement away from this and towards funding for local rail and cheaper transport. Will the new year bring some new thinking from the West of England Partnership?
Rob Telford, Green Party candidate for Ashley ward in May 2013