The answer, we’ve been told, is MetroBus.
According to its website, “MetroBus is a new express bus service that’s coming to the West of England region. It is a joint project between Bristol City Council, North Somerset Council and South Gloucestershire Council. MetroBus is a form of high capacity rapid public transport found in urban areas. It’s a smarter way of travelling that uses a combination of segregated busways and bus lanes”… and, of course, it will (again, according to the website):
· reduce carbon emissions,
· support sustainable economic growth,
· promote accessibility,
· contribute to better safety, security and health,
· improve quality of life and create a healthy natural environment”.
The trouble is (well, ONE of the troubles) that it’s going to cost an AWFUL lot of money!
In these austere times, the project is due to cost £200million (which includes just £34million from Central Government)(actually, there are SO many figures banded about that it’s all very confusing – probably intentionally!). I’m unsure about the latest cost estimates, but delays have no doubt already caused a sizeable increase.
Oh, and just last week, as a result of central government massively reducing funding to local councils (which, according to the Green Party "make it impossible for local councils to deliver essential basic services"), Bristol City Council has announced that it will have to axe 1,000 jobs to keep up with budget cuts! Aaargh!!
In December 2014, “The Bristol Post” reckoned the Bristol work was due to start in early February 2015 - with the aim of opening the Long Ashton-Temple Meads route in summer 2016 (yeh, right!!). Other construction work was programmed, thus:
Phase1: Docks+Hippodrome area = Oct15-Apr16
Phase2: Road closures and associated works = Mar16-Oct16
Phase3: finishing works = Sep16-Mar17
Well, let’s just say that the programme has slipped somewhat!
At this stage, for many Bristolians, MetroBus simply means yet another way of disrupting the city by roadworks. On 9 August, “The Bristol Post” reported that there about 40,000 sets of roadworks being carried out on the city’s road network every year… and, believe me, this year is going to be a bumper year!! The trouble is that the MetroBus work seems to be being undertaken in an incredibly haphazard way… LOTS of things are started but never, it seems, completed. The zone between Baldwin Street and St Augustine’s Parade is a perfect illustration (see above photograph): a large area has been closed off by hoardings for virtually a year (causing inconvenience and disruption), BUT virtually no construction has actually been carried out (its principal use appears to be as a massive parking area for digging machinery). Sightings of actual construction workers are somewhat rare! I COULD provide countless examples of areas where work has been commenced, but then “stalled”!Mastermind’s famous phrase of “I’ve started, so I’ll finish” could never be applied to the MetroBus roadways!
From the onset, campaigners questioned the scheme’s viability (not to mention its impact on the green belt etc). And now, just this month, it’s been reported that the scheme – “due to be running in Bristol by 2017” (note that they’ve stopped predicting a month!) - still has no operator and may need public funds “to entice firms on board”. Brilliant!
You just couldn’t make it up!