Category Archives: Connectivity and Transport

LEDs: keeping the lights on and bills down

Today’s blog is by Councillor Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport

Street lighting is something that some of us take for granted, but it’s critically important for our safety and quality of life. Technology moves on and an exciting new opportunity has now presented itself.

We will be replacing 27,000 of our now outdated street lights with Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and will operate them through a new Central Management System (CMS). The LED and CMS combination will reduce electricity consumption by 45 to 50%, saving taxpayers around £1.8 million each year and reducing Bristol’s carbon emissions by a stunning 17,741 tonnes over a decade. In addition, this system requires less maintenance so it will reduce the number of vehicle trips around the city with their associated costs and pollution.

I am really excited about this project, as given the climate emergency and with energy bills rising across the UK, it has never been more important to find ways to reduce our energy consumption across the city. 

The Central Management System provides remote control monitoring and energy measurement over a wireless interface, giving it the ability to dim or brighten individual areas of the city. Examples of the possible benefits of this could be improved women’s safety, more appropriate lighting for wildlife and reduced light pollution.

The variety of lamp posts, which are a welcome feature of our historic streetscape, has required some technical work to allow the LEDs to be used on the more traditional models. As LEDs use less energy, this creates new possibilities for our ongoing work on devising approaches to on-street charging models for electric vehicles, more of which will be announced soon.

Making an upfront investment to speed up our switch over to LED street lighting is a simple way to make energy savings. This is good news for the environment and will dramatically reduce our energy bills, freeing up future resources to be invested in other frontline services. Using smart city technology, this project which will make sure our street lighting network is responsive, reliable and fit for purpose for years to come.

The street lighting replacement programme will be completed over three years at a cost of £12 million, which will soon be recovered at current energy prices.

Temple Cycles

Today’s blog is by Matthew Mears, Founder and CEO of Temple Cycles, one of the Bristol businesses who I have recently visited.

We are a Bristol based bicycle designer and maker and we make some of the world’s most beautiful and high quality bicycles at our production facility in Bedminster. We have an emphasis on making versatile bikes for touring, commuting and also gravel riding, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and making sure our bikes will become vintage. We’ve also now introduced some incredible electric bikes into the line-up.

Sustainability

Temple Cycles was started in 2015, born out of my lifelong passion for cycling and a dream of producing bicycles here in Bristol. Since the start, making high quality machines has been the objective and we want all of the bikes we make to become vintage someday. Too much of the bicycle market is geared around upgrading and replacing your bike every few years. We don’t agree with this and make products which will last a lifetime.

Sustainability of our products and production processes are very important to us. That’s why we only make bikes from 100% recycled steel. This means that our bikes have a very long product lifecycle. If they are properly looked after they will last over 30 years, and when they do reach the end of their time, they can easily be recycled. On top of this, we make sure all of our bikes are very easy to service, maintain and find spare parts for.

The pandemic

There has been a significant change in the way we do business since COVID-19 and Brexit. Supply chain disruption and shipping delays have added extra pressure on the business. We used to operate in a leaner way, holding less stock of parts and materials in the warehouse. Now we hold a higher proportion of this to make sure we have enough to keep production running if we get hit with unexpected or extra supply delays. The demand for our bikes has risen significantly though, as people look for green modes of transport. We only see this becoming more and more important, especially as our cities grow and cars are certainly not the best mobility solution. As governments invest more in cycling infrastructure, we’re excited to see how much of a cycling nation we can become.

Cycling in Bristol

Cycling in Bristol is fantastic. We’re really proud to be part of this cycling city, and we see more and more people on bikes each year. There is so much to do if you like to cycle, with great access to the surrounding countryside and Sustrans national cycle routes. There’s something for everyone here, including great mountain biking in Ashton Court, access to beautiful and quiet country roads, an improving network of cycle lanes, and hundreds of parks and green spaces within the city to cycle to.

We’re really excited to continue growing our business in Bristol and for what the coming years will bring, as our city transforms to become a vibrant ecosystem for sustainable mobility and active travel.

East Bristol Liveable Neighbourhood – have your say!

People living in Barton Hill, Redfield, and St George have the chance to share their views on which measures they’d like to see introduced to their neighbourhood, as we look to make east Bristol safer, healthier, and greener.

Liveable Neighbourhoods are areas of a city where improvements are designed in partnership with local communities. Their aim is to achieve a better balance between how streets are used for transport and people. Measures can be small scale and easy to install, such as planting trees, providing more benches, community activity spaces, and better lighting, while making it easier to catch a bus and to walk or cycle, with improved infrastructure and measures to reduce through traffic.

The project is about working in partnership with communities to create stronger, safer and happier neighbourhoods. It is one of the ways we will be working in partnership to make Bristol a sustainable city with a lower impact on our planet and a healthy environment for all.

Developing a pilot Liveable Neighbourhood follows on from my pledge to the city, and the ideas from Bristol’s first Citizens’ Assembly, who backed this call for neighbourhoods to be reimagined so they are people-centred and more liveable.

The east Bristol pilot, funded by the West of England Combined Authority, will set out to deliver a safe, healthy, inclusive, and attractive environment where everyone can breathe clean air, have access to better quality green and play space, and feel a part of their community. Liveable Neighbourhoods give us the opportunity to rethink and reset where we live, empowering local communities to transform their neighbourhoods into places where people want to spend more time, as well as increasing a sense of pride and belonging.

The first round of engagement is running until 13 March 2022. A survey has gone out to 6,000 homes and 400 businesses across east Bristol asking for views on the measures that people would like to see introduced. An online survey is also available on the Bristol City Council website, and nearly 1,400 suggestions and responses have already been added to the interactive map. Virtual chats with project team members can also be booked by emailing liveableneighbourhoods@bristol.gov.uk or phoning 0117 903 6449 and leaving a message.

Businesses across the project area of Barton Hill, Redfield, and St George are also being invited to complete an additional survey. It asks for information about individual businesses, such as how many employees they have, how deliveries are made, how staff travel to work, and how their waste is collected. This survey is also available on the Liveable Neighbourhoods’ website.

Walking and cycling to boost health in south Bristol

Active travel, which includes cycling and walking, is a great way to take daily exercise and has a vital role to play in reducing congestion on local roads and tackling air pollution. It features in our Transport Strategy for Bristol, in which we set out our ambition to make walking the easy transport choice for our communities and to fully integrate cycling into the wider transport network, connecting people to jobs, schools, leisure and everyday facilities.

That’s why we are celebrating the news that we’ve been awarded £70,000 from the Department for Transport to design an active travel pilot to improve the health and wellbeing of people in south Bristol.

Our pilot will focus on three wards where there are comparatively low physical activity rates, including Filwood, Hartcliffe and Withywood, and Hengrove and Whitchurch Park.

The study, which will get underway soon, will look at the exercise needs of residents, what activities are available in the area, and who would benefit from being part of the trial. We’ll also review infrastructure across the area to see if there is anything stopping people from walking or cycling.

Our pilot project could see us offering one-to-one support, cycle centre courses, and group cycle rides and walks. Working with health and voluntary sector partners as well as local groups and charities, we will promote local walking and cycling routes, as well as provide training and bike maintenance courses, on top of low-cost bikes.

We are also looking to run taster sessions and fun days to promote all the ways local people can get involved with walking and cycling. Through the pilot, we’ll train more walk and cycle leaders as well as invest in bike storage and more bikes to loan out. Our aim is to give people the tools to be able to walk or cycle to maintain good health and make their journeys more pleasant experiences.

The study, which should be completed by the summer, will help us design a pilot scheme which, if successful, will provide a blueprint for us to introduce the active travel initiative to more of our local neighbourhoods.

Investing in active travel schemes will also help us as we work towards being carbon neutral by 2030. We all need to rethink how we travel, choosing more sustainable transport options. Walking and cycling are fantastic ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and they have so many other benefits.

We’re looking forward to working with communities and partners in south Bristol to get people on their bikes and walking for a healthier and happier life.

The stuff we’re getting done

For too long, Bristol’s political leaders took a patch-and-mend to building Bristol, failing to prepare for our city’s growth in population, to update our city’s energy systems, or to deliver a transport network fit for a modern city. By contrast, I’m proud that our administration is getting stuff done and building the next iteration of Bristol.

Future-proofing the city

Nowhere is this more urgent than in tackling our housing crisis. Average house prices are now nine times higher than average earnings – the highest of all the core cities. Combined with the impact of the pandemic and over a decade of government cuts to public services and welfare, this has left us with over 15,000 people on our housing waiting list, and around 1,000 families in temporary accommodation. On top of all of this, our city’s population is set to grow by almost 100,000 people by 2050.

That’s why we’ve put forward investment of £12 million in our budget to support the delivery of new affordable homes, with a plan to deliver 1,000 affordable homes a year by 2024 which will be considered by Cabinet this week. The cornerstone of this plan is the delivery of one of the biggest council house building programmes in a generation at Hengrove Park, with half of the 1,400 homes delivered by our housing company Goram Homes dedicated for social rent and shared ownership.

We’re planning for the future too, by investing £1.8 billion over 30 years to deliver new council homes and upgrading our existing stock.

Rethinking the architecture of the city

We are responding to this housing crisis in the context of a climate and ecological emergency. Put simply, how and where we build these new homes will determine the price the planet pays for Bristol’s growth.

We’ve worked with experts, like the Avon Wildlife Trust, to understand the ecological impact of development in different parts of the city. That’s why we’ve taken the decision to scale down our own plans for development on the Western Slopes, building affordable homes only on the previously-developed former school site near Belstone Walk.

Not delivering homes here, however, means we must prioritise development at higher density on brownfield land near the centre of the city. We’ll continue to do just that through major regeneration schemes that will bring thousands of new homes (and jobs!) to our city: Castle Park View, Bedminster Green, Western Harbour, Frome Gateway, and – of course – Temple Island.

Even in the city centre, however, we’re building in space for nature to thrive. The work we’re doing to create green roofs and walls in the Bearpit will inform how we can incorporate these into future regeneration projects – building ecology into the very architecture of the city. And we are working with the Environment Agency to deliver on our flood strategy and protect our city from the impacts of climate change.

Connecting the city

All of this demands big changes to how we move around the city. Our mission throughout has been to connect people to people, people to jobs, and people to opportunity. But we will fail if we just tinker around the edges of Bristol’s transport network like previous administrations. That’s why we’re taking big decisions now to lay the foundations of a Bristol that is fit for the future.

We are repairing vital infrastructure that for too long has been allowed to fray, with a £15 million investment in repairing 6 crucial bridges. We’re delivering unprecedented investment in Bristol’s public transport system – providing more people across the city with more frequent and reliable alternatives to travelling by car. This includes the improvements to the number 2 route as part of the Bus Deal, and the delivery of the first new train station in Bristol in 95 years at the Portway Park and Ride (soon to be followed by a new station at Ashley Down).

All this builds the case for a radical rethink of our transport system. Bristol is the only core city without a mass transit network, and I am pleased that leaders across parties and from across the region recognise the need to redress this. I’m pleased to secure commitment from WECA on the need for tunnels and £5 million of investmentto set out our plans.

We’re applying that ambition to a local level too. We’ve opened our initial engagement so that residents can help us shape our first Liveable Neighbourhood pilot in East Bristol. Combined with £4.7 million of investment to help Bristol’s high streetsrecover from the pandemic, we’re committed to building sustainable and thriving communities for residents and businesses.

Going big

The interconnected challenges we are facing as a city and a planet demand urgent action. We are taking decisions that deliver jobs, homes, and sustainability to make sure Bristol can tackle the challenges and seize the opportunities to come over the next decades.

Now is the time for clear leadership – for getting stuff done quickly, and with an eye on the future challenges we face.

That’s what we’re delivering.

On the level

At our fortnightly press conference today we had a lot of news to share:

  • A bridge repair programme will start this spring
  • Millions of pounds are being committed to our mass transit work
  • The Portway Park-and-Ride train station construction has begun
  • We’re securing 50% affordable homes within the 1,400 homes we’ll deliver at Hengrove Park
  • We’re prioritising ecological sites on Western Slopes while developing the
    brownfield portion of the site
  • Residents are getting an opportunity to shape our plans for a pilot Liveable
    Neighbourhood in East Bristol

Unfortunately, this momentum is yet to be matched by national government.

I awaited the Levelling up White Paper keenly. Over the weekend the government heralded ‘Kings Cross-style’ regeneration projects, and we have one the largest brownfield sites in the country.

Temple Quarter sits right at the heart of our city, and is, in the lingo, shovel-ready for redevelopment. Temple Quarter consists of Temple Meads, our iconic train station, that is a gateway for rail transport for the whole region, and is surrounded by land that will bring thousands of essential homes and jobs to our community. We have been promised the funding for this project repeatedly. This would have been the perfect opportunity to announce it and kickstart the biggest transport and regeneration project outside London in a generation.

I was hoping the White Paper would put forward concrete plans from the government to work with us to regenerate areas of our city, invest in green infrastructure and jobs of the future it will bring, modernise our transport system, and redress the social, health and economic inequalities that have been entrenched in Bristol over generations.

There are some things to welcome, such as the government’s acknowledgement of the economic strength of the Western Gateway. The White Paper recognises he collective power of Bristol and Cardiff and the surrounding regions, in particular the clusters in digital, aerospace and our universities, but overall there is little in it that we did not already know.

We warmly welcome the £540 million of funding to improve our local transport network, which was first announced last year. We also already knew that the government planned to move more civil service jobs from London to Bristol, but again celebrate new jobs for our city.  

But what we still don’t know is when the government will bring forward the investment we have been calling for, for projects like Temple Quarter. Without these concrete commitments, and the funding and powers that we need to deliver them, levelling up will remain a work in progress for our city.

Also, there is no plan to reverse the decade of damage caused by government cuts to local communities. Government funding to councils has fallen by over 50% in real terms since 2010.

As a leader of a city, I know that just as much as physical areas, some people and communities are excluded from the economic opportunities needed to level up. If women, disabled people, or those living in poverty are not proactively included in the government’s approach then they will continue to be left behind. Bristol has 41 areas in the most deprived 10% in England, including 3 in the most deprived 1%. Levelling up is meaningless if all people do not directly feel the difference in their lives.

We continue to show our commitment to getting stuff done in all corners and with all communities in Bristol. I look forward to the government one day equalling our ambition.

Bearpit necessities

Artist’s illustration of what the green roofs and walls could look like in the Bearpit when works are complete

Bristol has ambitious goals for ecology and wildlife in our city, but this can be challenging in urban settings. We’ve been working to bring nature and green walls to as many places as possible, and now we can share news of a project to bring pollinators to the St James Barton roundabout (AKA the Bearpit).

Our priority has been to make the Bearpit a safe place for everyone. We saw a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour of three quarters after we took action in September 2019. We are now able to share more about the work we’re doing to wild the Bearpit, which is a continuation of the improvement works there, as well as supporting our citywide ecological strategy and aims.

This week we commenced a four-week programme to create green roofs on the former toilet blocks, turning them into wildflower meadows. The native flowers will add to the biodiversity and attract pollinators, in a space dominated by concrete and busy roads. They will have a waterproof layer, topped with a recycled stone substrate layer and then sown with a wildflower meadow seed. Once it grows, it will become a mix of colourful native wildflowers and grasses, which are low maintenance, and drought tolerant to minimise water consumption and be resilient to climate change.

We have also worked on the raised terrace planting, with the Bristol Parks team having removed the weeds as well as litter and graffiti. The timber walls are being re-stained and timber seat tops replaced with sustainable oak timbers. The existing pollinator-friendly planting along the walls has been retained and pruned. In the retained existing soil, we are adding new wildflower meadow turf and meadow seed will be sown in the spring. There will be new native trees planted, with spring-flowering bulbs planted into the meadow areas. The planted terraces are being maintained by Bristol City Council.

These elements contribute to us delivering the Ecological Emergency Action Plan goals, including the aims of ‘Meadow Bristol’, by creating new wildflower meadow habitats and our commitment to ‘Green Infrastructure’ and managing green spaces to increase biodiversity within the heart of the city.

This is round two in the fight to make the Bearpit a safe space for everyone and an area with pollinators, wildlife and colour.

Take it to the bridge

I have written before about the importance of bridges to Bristol’s history, and although the Suspension Bridge justifiably gets the focus of postcards and other tourist memorabilia, many of us rely on the other, less celebrated bridges to move around Bristol.

Sadly, like much of the physical infrastructure in the city they have suffered from decades of neglect. We’re now attempting to put that right.

We are in the process of seeking funding as part of our City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) bid to the Department for Transport via WECA for a £15 million programme to refurbish and repair six key bridges during the next five years.

Photograph of Gaol Ferry Bridge, across the New Cut in Southville
Gaol Ferry Bridge, across the New Cut

Those six bridges are:

  • Gaol Ferry Bridge
  • Langton Street Bridge
  • Sparke Evans Park Bridge
  • Vauxhall Bridge
  • Bedminster Bridge
  • Bath Bridge

We know that this work will cause inconvenience for people as they are used by thousands every day, but they are all in need of repair. We will do everything we can to minimise the impact to people’s day-to-day lives, but there is no alternative for these busy and well-used routes. 

First will be the Gaol Ferry Bridge over the New Cut, south of Wapping Wharf and connecting to Bedminster and Southville. It is a lightweight lattice girder suspension footbridge. Built in 1935 and having only had small patches and mends in the 87 years since then, we are now gearing up for a substantial refurbishment: undertaking a full replacement of decking, some structural repairs and full repainting of the structure. Unfortunately, this means a full closure for between six to nine months while parts of the structure are replaced.

This project is not reliant on the CRSTS bid to national government, because we had already recognised that this work needed to happen as part of an inspection of all the bridges in 2020 and part of £9.6 million we allocated to highways maintenance funding last year.

The closure of the Gaol Ferry Bridge will not be until the spring, but we are now beginning work to survey people as they use the bridge to inform our signage strategy so we can direct people to other crossings as early in their journeys as possible.

Further information about the wider programme of repairs and their planned schedule over the next five years will be shared as soon as possible.

We are being proactive in getting the funding necessary to secure our city’s bridges, to ensure they will connect Bristol for generations to come.

Help us improve a major transport route

Today’s guest blog comes from Cllr Don Alexander, Cabinet Member for Transport

It’s vital that we tackle congestion and air pollution across Bristol. This means reducing carbon and improving the air we breathe, improving the speed and reliability of buses and making it safer on our streets for cyclists and walkers. It’s time we think differently about the way we travel in Bristol.

Our designs for the number 2 bus route (A37/A4018), which will improve journeys along this busy traffic corridor, have been shaped by the people who live, work and travel along it.

We opened our consultation on these proposals at the start of December and have since had many people get involved and give us their views.

I’d like to thank everyone for taking the time to look at our plans and share their thoughts with us. There’s still time to tell us what you think if you haven’t got round to it yet.  

The number 2 bus route is one of eight main bus routes that need to be improved in Bristol. It travels from Cribbs Causeway to Stockwood via the city centre, following the A37 and A4018.

Overall, we want to encourage more people to choose to make the switch to take the bus, walk or cycle. For this to happen, we need to improve the service offered by the number 2 bus by making it easier to catch, more reliable, with shorter journey times.

We’re also committed to active travel, and our proposals will achieve better spaces for walkers and make it safer to cycle.

This project is part of our wider transformation over the next decade, working with the West of England Combined Authority, to make Bristol’s transport network better for all.

Through our ongoing consultation, we need to know if we have struck the right balance for the city with our designs and are reminding everyone to have their say.

We’ve launched a virtual room online (see photo of what it looks like below) that allows you to isolate the parts of the route you’re familiar with, find out what we’re planning along local streets, and give your views.

Screenshot of the Virtual Engage tool for the number 2 bus route consultation

We’re also continuing to host a series of drop-in information sessions so you can find out more about the proposals and ask us your questions.

To see our plans, book onto a drop-in session, and have your say, go to the Travelwest website by 28 January 2022.

Western Gateway: decarbonizing and sorting out strategic transport

Mayor Marvin Rees with council and business leaders from across the Western Gateway

Across the Severn Estuary and beyond, our cities and rural communities have problems in common that need a combined solution. I was glad to host my fellow Western Gateway Partnership board members recently to discuss and agree our priorities for the future.

Council leaders from the West of England, Cardiff, Swansea and Gloucestershire gathered at City Hall on 13 October. alongside Hugh Brady, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, business, and LEP representatives with our chair, Katherine Bennett, now CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and formerly of Filton Airbus.  

We agreed to place our joint focus on connecting our strategic transport plans and decarbonising our economy. This will include exploring all avenues to decarbonise energy production. In a week when we are seeing people and business facing soaring gas prices this couldn’t be more vital.

Historic problems with our combined transport network must be addressed to provide real travel options for people to get about easily. This means connecting our vision for a mass transit system in Bristol with the vision of our neighbours across the breadth and depth of the Western Gateway. It also means connecting us up via improved electrified intercity trains which speed up travel between Cardiff and Bristol, but also to London, Birmingham and Manchester. People across the Western Gateway geography should have access to affordable and easy transport links. By collating one big vision for the whole area we can start to make it a reality. 

The Severn Bridge links the Western Gateway

The Western Gateway Partnership is our pan-regional economic powerhouse which stretches from Swindon and Wiltshire to Swansea and Cardiff. The aim of the partnership is to use our combined strengths to promote our area at the highest levels and help deliver for the 4.4 million people who live here. 

By convening local partners, the partnership has a strong role to play in helping us achieve our shared goals, helping to boost our economies and reach pockets of deprivation within our communities.

Already the partnership has led a bid to ensure that a site near Bristol is in the final selection for the first prototype nuclear fusion plant in the UK. This would mean thousands of jobs for the region and put our area on the front line globally for developing this green fuel.

We know our area has strong potential for future investment. Last month, the partnership published the second phase of its independent economic review, carried out by Deloitte LLP. This highlighted that, by overcoming shared barriers to productivity, our combined area could be providing at least an extra £34 billion for the UK economy each year by 2030.

This report also showed significant strengths in advanced mechanics and cyber that we share across our region. Ranking high for innovation, we have world leading tech manufacturing and cyber clusters right on our doorstep. The report also highlighted the natural resources and expertise in our area as proof of the role we can play in transitioning the UK towards green energy.

There are many priorities for the partnership including boosting local innovation even further and promoting Western Gateway on a global stage to draw in the ongoing investment we need as a city and region. With our chair, Katherine Bennett, at the helm, our partnership now has a clear direction to deliver as a key economic powerhouse for the UK.