‘Bristol often fails to think big’ – why the city’s public transport system is letting it down

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post Newspaper on 3rd April 2019 (also featured on BristolPost.co.uk on 13th April 2019).

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Businessman Stephen Fear, of land and planning company Fear Group, shares his thoughts on how Bristol’s public transport system is holding the city back.

An effective transport system is essential for the prosperity of any modern city.

Without an integrated system of public transport the true potential of large cities is stunted.

This is because commerce and tourism growth is curtailed by time delays and frustration.

The private car has a very clear place in the future transport needs of a growing population because it means leaving home when you like and knowing that, whatever the weather conditions, you will be dry, warm and safe.

Electric cars will improve air quality but only better transport planning can improve congestion.

I was disappointed when Bristol opted for a guided diesel-engined hybrid bus rather than an electric tram system.

For some reason, trams are seen as ‘cool’ whereas a bus just isn’t (particularly an adapted double decker bus with caster wheels on the front).

Clearly, there are cost implications regarding trams versus a guided-bus system but these were overcome in Nottingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Sheffield – so why not in Bristol?

Despite the city being well located, Bristol – in my opinion – often fails to think big. Even the airport expansion is being challenged in various quarters.

Some people are citing the carbon footprint as the reason the airport expansion should be stopped but, in my view, this is short-sighted.

People need to be able to board public transport in areas like Filton and be able to travel to any of the main regional transport hubs, including Bristol Airport, without having to change routes.

This is essential if the authorities really want to persuade people that public transport has come of age.

Until people in the greater Bristol area are able to reach important destinations easily, and from right across the region, they will never abandon their cars.

I think the lack of a rail-based public transport system is detrimental to the way the city operates and, crucially, to the way it is seen both nationally and internationally.

Unless people from within the region can obtain flights locally they will simply drive to Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham or Manchester, which will cause hundreds of thousands of unnecessary car journeys.

That won’t help improve the carbon footprint or the green agenda, which in many ways I support.

In the meantime, making the guided bus route more extensive and inclusive would help alleviate some of the physical issues.

Perhaps in time the route used by the guided bus can be upgraded to rail?

Bristol just isn’t metropolitan in its approach to integrated public and private transport.

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