During the summer, Bristol’s One City Transport Board met to consider how to further improve Bristol’s buses. As a bus user myself, and as a councillor who represents a ward in the outer estates of our city, Bristol’s buses are a real passion of mine.
This comes ahead of our West of England Combined Authority bidding for some £40-50 million from national Government. Buses don’t stop at local authority borders, and so a joined-up regional approach is crucial to keep things moving.
One City partners are ambitious for the future of Bristol’s buses, building on the work to deliver an integrated network with underground mass transit and rail. To do that, we need to keep working collaboratively through WECA, local bus operators and passengers.
With the post-pandemic recovery in passenger numbers still uncertain, we need to continue to innovate – and WECA should use revenue funding to sustain services where passengers are low for the time being. At the other end of the scale, revenue support could also radically strengthen evening and weekend services on main routes. For workers, there remains a need for higher frequency services to all Enterprise Areas/Zones, including Avonmouth-Severnside in the ward I represent.
Funding could also kick start a series of high quality, high frequency orbital routes. These new services should go around Bristol, connecting communities and key corridors – to complement a network which largely connects places to town. Interchange hubs would be critical to ensuring the success of new orbital routes, including at Temple Meads and other rail stations.
We remain committed to working with neighbours to deliver a ring of Park and Rides, to reduce commuter traffic into the city and build on the success of existing sites. There is also the potential to reduce fares and, as we set out in our manifesto, subsidise travel for younger people to make transport more accessible. The entirety of the West’s bus network has yet to catch up with contactless card payments, and a fare-capped system across operators should be accelerated.
As Bristol’s 99 bio-gas buses show, together with our ambition for the rest of the fleet, public transport can be more sustainable transport. This continued progress sits alongside other policies, including the upcoming Clean Air Zone. And, of course, walking and cycling remain complimentary to bus services – not a competitor to them. Integrating the planning and delivery of schemes so that public and active transport are aligned is essential.
There’s even more to cover, but this gives a good flavour of the investment One City Transport Board is pushing for. This clear vision from Bristol, as part of our wider region, can deliver a step change for Bristol’s buses and our transport system.