Yesterday and today, I have been at Labour’s local government conference in Nottingham – discussing the future of local government and how we can work together for the best interests of our citizens in Boris Johnson’s post Brexit world.
I took some time out to look at Nottingham’s famed tram network and a bus service which runs every seven minutes. One service even stops in Nottingham’s very own “Clifton”. Compare this to the decades of absent vision and failed delivery for transport in Bristol that have left our city woefully underserved. And we are dealing with consequences of that failure with disconnected communities, economic exclusion, and car dependency.
Nottingham is a case-in-point of the ambition which I and my colleagues here have for our communities. Nottingham is proof what can happen when a council aligns vision with a commitment and ability to deliver.
Bristol is now a city with that ambition and is getting stuff done. The cranes across the city scape, new homes, the opening of Channel 4 Bristol, a city able to end period poverty and organise with no national government funding to supply and distribute 55,000 meals to tackle holiday hunger, and a Bristol at the heart of the Western Gateway, the UK’s latest regional powerhouse.
We have taken this vision and delivery into transport through our work on the Bristol Bus Deal and our plans for a long overdue mass transit system. The Bus Deal is already seeing investment to double the frequency of bus services and make them more reliable. This chapter change comes alongside the arrival of the UK’s biggest order of bio-gas eco buses here in Bristol, cleaning up our air at the same time as cutting congestion.
It’s often said that the best time to plant a tree was forty years ago, and that the second best time is today. Transport networks, like trees, don’t appear overnight. Transport networks need time, planning, and finance.
Nottingham’s tram network, for example, was first talked about in the 1980s. Thanks to investment from the Labour Government, the first phase was then completed between 1998-2004; the second in 2015. Like Nottingham, Bristol should have understood the challenge, set the vision and put the foundations in a place decades ago. But it didn’t. And so we have been doing so for four years. We have to start from where we are, rather than where we wish we were.
In a video which I posted from the conference, I said that we have to get past the nay-sayers: the people who call progress a pipe-dream, who deride serious plans as pie-in-the-sky. Instead of being guided by what Bristolians need, they let the city’s historic non-delivery and their own lack of ambition and confidence limit our future. Newcastle, Liverpool, and Glasgow have all proved that’s it’s possible to deliver an underground outside of the capital. These are all cities with similar metro-region populations to Bristol. Now, with Bristol uniting around delivering mass transit, after the youth mayors and youth council chose to make it a city priority for 2020, there is real hope for the future for us too.