A major transport scheme that includes the building of a Stoke Gifford by-pass and the introduction of a fast and reliable bus service between Bradley Stoke and Bristol city centre has taken a big step forward with the award of £51 million of Government funding.
Work on the £102 million North Fringe to Hengrove Package, which will also be funded by Bristol City Council (BCC) and South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), is scheduled to start in two years time, subject to successfully overcoming regulatory hurdles that are expected to include a public inquiry.
The Stoke Gifford by-pass, running from the Parkway North Roundabout on Great Stoke Way to the Avon Ring Road (emerging opposite the Holiday Inn), will provide Bradley Stoke motorists with a more direct route to junction 1 of the M32 at Hambrook, avoiding the notorious bottlenecks at the Parkway Station railway bridge and the Abbey Wood Roundabout.
Public transport users will benefit from a new bus-only junction onto the M32, where Stoke Lane crosses over the motorway, close to the Dower House.
Within Bradley Stoke, a number of new bus lanes will be constructed along Bradley Stoke Way – without reducing the number of lanes available for general traffic. For more details, take a look at The Journal’s interactive map of the rapid transit route or consult the detailed route plans [PDF, 63.7MB] submitted with the official bid to the Department for Transport (DfT).
Statutory orders for the scheme are due to be published by June next year and a public inquiry could start in December 2012. On-site work is scheduled to start in December 2013 and the new by-pass and ‘rapid’ bus service should be open/operational by December 2016.
The two local authorities will together contribute £51 million to the scheme, with SGC’s share being £30.6 million. BCC has said it will use “prudential borrowing”, supplementary business rates and a workplace parking levy to raise its £20.4 million contribution but SGC has been less transparent, saying only that its share will be funded from “capital receipts and developer contributions” with the detail hidden in an appendix to the bid that is “not for publication at present”.
Commenting on the announcement, Cllr Brian Allinson, executive member responsible for transport and Chair of the West of England Partnership’s Joint Transport Executive Committee, said:
“We are delighted that the bid has been successful. This is exceptionally good news for South Gloucestershire’s economy and for transport as a whole across the region.”
“The North Fringe to Hengrove rapid transit scheme, along with the recent announcements about the schemes in Ashton Vale and the South Bristol link, coupled with the electrification of the Great Western Main Line rail line clearly demonstrate the benefits which can be achieved when the four West of England councils work together in partnership.”
“Securing this significant investment in the West’s transport system is further recognition of the importance central Government places on this region and the scheme will lead to more jobs being created and improved links made with communities in the north and east fringe when work starts on the scheme in two years time.”
Local MPs Jack Lopresti and Chris Skidmore MP released a joint statement saying:
“The £102m investment will greatly improve the transport links between residential areas and employment, leisure and retail centres in our area.”
“The scheme will give a boost to the local economy by providing 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.”
The MPs say the scheme will bring the following benefits to the local area:
- It will support our buoyant local economy, and improve the quality of life for local residents as well as national and international travel
- It will reduce congestion and therefore the economic, environmental and health damage that is associated with it but also enhances the chances of regeneration through the linking of areas of economic growth and housing expansion
- It will also promote equality of opportunities through improved connectivity to education, employment, leisure, health and retail facilities
Their statement concludes by saying:
“Well done to both South Gloucestershire and Bristol City Councils for working together on the joint bid – this is a fantastic piece of news and the Government should be thanked for its commitment to our local area.”
More info: North Fringe to Hengrove Package (The Journal)
The Editor comments
This scheme, while likely to be welcomed by many in Bradley Stoke and Stoke Gifford, still has long way to go before it becomes reality. The current delay to the approval of SGC’s Core Strategy is likely to have an impact and the recent decision by planning officials to earmark the Filton Airfield site for development could necessitate a re-think of transport plans for the whole North Bristol area.
The project’s dependency on (housing) developer contributions could also easily lead to delays as planned developments fail to materialise due to the depressed economic climate. December 2016 seems a long way off but don’t hold your breath – experience tells us that it’s likely to be later!
Experience also tells us that costs often escalate on long-term projects like this, so expect to see some (more) pruning in the coming years, particularly as any overspend will have to be met by the two local authorities and not central Government. The new bus-only junction onto the M32 is predicted to be the first casualty.
Footnote: There already seems to be some disagreement about the total cost of the project, with the MPs quoting £102 million, the West of England Partnership’s “best and final bid” £97 million and the DfT’s announcement £92.9 million.
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