South Glos Cabinet approves £51 million bus rapid transit bid

Rapid Transit Bus

South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) Cabinet has approved the submission to the Department for Transport (DfT) of a bid for £51 million of government funding towards a bus rapid transit scheme that would link link Cribbs Causeway with Bristol city centre via Bradley Stoke.

The £102 million scheme, known as the North Fringe to Hengrove Package, promises to provide a “fast, frequent and reliable public transport service linking the areas of Cribbs Causeway, Aztec West and Emersons Green with Bristol city centre and with Hengrove to the south of the city.”

Locally, the project includes the construction of a Stoke Gifford by-pass, providing a much-needed road link between the south of Bradley Stoke and the Avon Ring Road, emerging between Junction 1 of the M32 and the University of the West of England [see map].

The scheme promises to provide a ten minute frequency service on the route, using “modern, accessible, comfortable and low-emission vehicles” (tram-like ‘bendy buses’ are shown in promotional material).

When the scheme was originally proposed in 2009, it was costed at £194 million, with the DfT giving “in principle” approval for £170 million of funding with SGC and Bristol City Council making up the difference.

Since then, central government has announced a massive reduction in the amount of money available for transport projects. This led to the two local Councils submitting a revised bid in December 2010, in which costs were reduced to the current total of £102 million. In the process, SGC’s share of the total cost has rocketed from 10% (£20M) to 30% (£30.5M).

A ‘best and final’ bid will now go to the DfT by 9th September and a decision is expected to be announced in December.

If the application is successful, planning applications for the scheme will be prepared by April 2012 and a public inquiry will be held in Autumn 2012.

Construction could then start in Autumn 2013 and parts of the scheme could come into operation during 2015.

The latest proposals for the Bradley Stoke area

Locally-relevant changes and cost reductions in the 2010 bid included:

  • The route no longer serves any part of the main Park Road loop in the Aztec West Business Park, using instead the A38 between the Aztec West Roundabout and Patchway Roundabout.
  • The length of separate running lanes for rapid transit services were reduced and targeted at areas most affected by congestion.
  • The Stoke Gifford by-pass was reduced to two lanes (from four)  with additional rapid transit lanes at key sections on approaches to junctions.
  • The M32 Park & Ride was removed from the scheme, although the bus-only junction onto the M32 at the bottom of Coldharbour Lane was retained.

Whereas the original proposal saw a guided busway running along the whole length of Bradley Stoke Way, this has now been replaced with conventional bus lanes at strategic points.

SGC recently provided The Journal with the following description of the latest proposals for the Bradley Stoke area:

  • The Stoke Gifford Transport Link [by-pass] would provide up to three highway lanes on the approach to junctions and one of these would be a bus lane. For example, on the approach to the Hunts Ground Road (Parkway North) roundabout, one of the two northbound lanes would be a bus lane, for use by rapid transit services, buses and other permitted users.
  • The Great Stoke Way northbound approach to Winterbourne Road would be widened to provide a bus lane, while the Bradley Stoke Way approach would also be widened to provide a southbound bus lane.
  • Bradley Stoke Way, from Tesco car park to the A38 at Aztec West, would be widened to provide a north-westbound bus lane.

Footnote: Surveyors and contractors have been seen at work along Bradley Stoke Way in recent weeks in connection with the bus rapid transit scheme, as explained in an SGC press release on 22nd June.

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