£78m bus network 'starting to yield results'
THE controversial Greater Bristol Bus Network is starting to yield results – according to the people behind the scheme.
The West of England joint Transport Executive discussed the £78 million project when it met yesterday.
The scheme, which created ten new showcase routes in and around the city, came in for severe criticism for creating upheavals and delays. But councils and bus operators believe that although the scheme has only just been completed, the signs are that it has already been a success.
A report to the meeting said the number of people using the services on the GBBN routes has increased by 7.5 per cent. It also found that passenger satisfaction had increased to more than 60 per cent.
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Justin Davies, the head of First Bus in Bristol, said: "The signs are encouraging but I do wonder if we should be more ambitious than an increase of seven per cent, given the level of investment made.
"However, we should take into account that the starting point was before the recession and in real terms the increase in passenger demand is probably much higher.
"The camera enforcement on bus lanes has a lot of benefits for the bus companies.
"There is still an awful lot of work to be done but the early signs are very encouraging."
Brian Allinson, the chair of the transport committee, said: "We are grateful to the bus operators for being so supportive of the GBBN. The only slightly negative note is that, although we do appreciate that operators are commercial organisations, sometimes when changes are made to services the effect that it has on the public is not always appreciated."
But traders in areas where the new GBBN bus lanes have been built do say the scheme has been a disaster.
Leigh Cooper, from the Fishponds Business Forum – which represents traders in Fishponds Road, where there is a GBBN bus lane – said: "There is nothing wrong with having a bus lane and with encouraging more people to use buses. But what they have done in Bristol is introduce over-engineered bus lanes in areas with high streets which are badly struggling.
"As a piece of engineering it is wonderful but for the people of Fishponds it has been nothing short of a disaster. As a result of what they have done people are struggling to get to shops on the high street.
"We are the heartbeat of local communities and these bus lanes have been nothing short of a disaster for traders such as myself."
The meeting also heard about the progress being made on introducing a smart card ticket system for public transport in the Bristol area. A trial of the technology is taking place in Bath and the technology could spread to Bristol by next spring.