It can be difficult to get an overall picture of current transport policy in the city and sub-region. Information comes through in a sporadic fashion, and is rarely presented as a coherent whole. The following is a summary of recent announcements, consultations and decisions.
Local transport policy – WECA
Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP4) was approved by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) on 20th March. The policies are sustainable-friendly, but the list of schemes with heavy road-building emphasis are unchanged from earlier drafts, which attracted strong public comment/protest. North Somerset and BANES councils made some late changes to strengthen the policy on sustainable choices. JLTP5, taking into account both a new spatial plan (after the previous Joint Spatial Plan was rejected last summer by the Examiners) and climate change commitments, will start straight away. But it will take two to three years to complete. For now, JLTP4 is the statutory plan.
At the WECA scrutiny meeting, WECA’s Head of Infrastructure explained the apparent emphasis on road schemes by saying that the rules for Local Transport Plans have changed over time and that LTPs no longer need to be a committed plan, merely a menu of options. Apparently a 5-year prioritised plan is a separate exercise, which hopefully will become clear in due course.
A draft WECA Bus Strategy went to public consultation in February. It proposed a network of radial routes, orbital routes and interchange hubs. Associated measures included reallocating roadspace to unblock buses, smart ticketing, feeder services etc. Sustainable Transport network (STN) submitted a response. The strategy seems to be on the right lines, albeit remaining at a high level. Its success depends on the detail and the delivery. Until the brave political decisions have been made to reallocate road space, everything else is for nothing. See draft Bus Strategy and STN response.
A draft WECA Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) went to public consultation in February. The Plan described 27 walking schemes and 24 cycling schemes across the WECA area, each with a list of proposed street interventions. The walking schemes are focused on routes to local centres. The LCWIP is in anticipation of government money being announced to fund such schemes, which would be very welcome. See the draft LCWIP.
A Sustrans response has suggested that the LCWIP could be improved in a number of respects, and has not followed government guidance as well as it might have done. Bristol Walking Alliance and Bristol Cycling Campaign both responded. A particular omission is Liveable Neighbourhoods.
Future Transport Zone
WECA has been successful in securing £24m from government, sharing from a Future Mobility Zone fund with two other England authorities. WECA is allocating £4m of its own money on top of this. The Future Transport Zone bid quotes the following deliverables:
- Building a Data Hub and Mobility Stations to improve physical and digital connectivity;
- Developing a Mobility as a Service Platform and trialling the use of mobility credits for improving access to employment; and
- Trialling new mobility services, including dynamic demand responsive travel and supporting the use of more sustainable travel solutions.
The aim is to increase the ease of mobility and to “help cut congestion and improve our air quality”.
Local transport policy – Bristol
The Bus Deal is perhaps the biggest element of the Council’s transport policy. It was first announced by the Mayor in October 2018, but it has been slow to get going. It aims to reallocate road space on arterial corridors to give buses priority, and make buses faster and more reliable, which is vital for encouraging people to drive less. The Council makes the road changes, and in return First Bus (and potentially other bus operators) will provide additional services or increase frequencies. A Memorandum of Understanding on each route would be signed by the Council and the bus operator.
WECA has provisionally allocated £15m to 2023 and £15m to 2027. In March, WECA confirmed £1.5m for the feasibility of phase 1, which is the no 2 service from Stockwood to Cribbs Causeway, with an anticipated cost of the order of £30m, and might be completed in 2022.
It has morphed into a huge programme – there are 7 other routes. It will tackle all arterial corridors, and address them for buses, bikes and walking at the same time. Even with some projects running in parallel, it would seem likely to take around 10 years to do all the routes. The ambition is to be applauded, but it will come too slowly to get more people out of cars and in to buses in time to meet the 2030 zero carbon emission target. See October 2019 Cabinet paper, and the MoU document signed by the Mayor and James Freeman of First Bus here (agenda item 15). See in particular the map of routes at the end of the MoU document.
To date, there has not been a public statement on these plans and other plans such as the proposal to close Bristol Bridge to all vehicles other than buses, but one would expect that an announcement will come soon.