There’s no official date, so Journal editor Stephen Horton is left to speculate…
By the time you read this, we will be into the third year of MetroBus roadworks in Bradley Stoke! When Alun Griffiths started their work in earnest on Monday 2nd September 2015, closing the Woodlands Lane junction for “an estimated 18 weeks”, we were told they planned to be out of Bradley Stoke and have the Stoke Gifford By-Pass completed by Christmas 2016. So much for optimism!
With the traffic cones finally coming off most (but not all) of the new bus lanes, it’s not my intention to rake over all those old stories about “uncharted underground services” and “design changes”, but rather to consider when we might be able to actually use the promised new “high quality, fast and reliable” MetroBus services here in Bradley Stoke.
Answering that question, however, has proved rather more difficult than you might have imaged. MetroBus says it is no longer prepared to supply an exact date and its latest public newsletter states simply “autumn 2017”, although it should be noted that enquiries have revealed that this date represents the earliest date that any of the three MetroBus routes across Greater Bristol should start, and does not necessarily apply to all of them. In practice, it is likely to relate only to the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads (AVTM) route.
The key factors that need to be considered are: (1) Completion of the route infrastructure; (2) installation of the IT infrastructure; (3) appointment of a bus operator; and (4) ability and willingness of the appointed operator to commence services.
A report to the West of England Joint Transport Board in March estimated that all construction on the North Fringe to Hengrove Package (NFHP) route, i.e. the one serving Bradley Stoke, would be completed by “autumn 2017”. The Journal is not aware of any official slippage on this date but it is noted that the Stoke Gifford By-Pass is now on the critical path, its projected completion date having slipped to “autumn 2017” from “summer 2017”. Similarly, work at the southern end of Bradley Stoke Way is now scheduled to finish in October 2017 (was given as May 2017 at the start of the year).
All MetroBus stops will have one or more iPoints (these are combined information, route planning and ticketing machines). The date for the commencement of iPoint installation has been consistently given as August 2017, but we are now hearing of a change in manufacturer, meaning they will now not be piloted until the middle of October. Thorough testing will then be required before they are rolled out to the whole network over a number of months.
The announcement of a MetroBus service operator has been delayed several times, most recently because of the mayoral and general elections. When an announcement was finally made in June 2017 it was revealed that First would be operating the AVTM route, but nothing was said about the other two routes. There have been continuous hints that the announcement of an operator for the NFHP route is “due within a week or two”, but when pressed, a spokesperson recently told us: “We do not know the date.”
Curiously (with no operator announced), an email verified as originating from MetroBus appeared on a local Facebook group page in June 2017 stating: “The operator running the [NFHP] service wants to run with gas hybrid vehicles from the start rather than using diesels. We are still waiting to hear when the buses will be ready. The lead time on hybrid vehicles is longer than on diesels, so it is likely to be January .”
Pressed for an update to include in this article, a MetroBus spokesperson said:
“The [NFHP] start date will be dictated by how quickly the iPoints can be installed and how quickly the operator can take delivery of their vehicles. Realistically, this will probably now be early 2018. We will know more once the iPoint installation begins and the operator is announced.”
This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 11). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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