Opinion: Bristol Underground could be built using ‘really quite simple’ method

Original article written by Stephen Fear for the Bristol Post on 4th January 2018 (also featured on BristolPost.co.uk on 29th December 2017).

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Stephen Fear, founder and chief executive of Bristol-based land and planning company Fear Group, explains how the city could actually build an underground…

Many people have criticised Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees for spending public money investigating the potential of building a Bristol underground, but how feasible is it to create an underground railway system for Bristol?

It might not be as daft as it first seems, providing the little issue of about £5billion of investment funds can be found.

This money will certainly not be coming from central government, that’s for sure. Regardless of who wins the next general election, there simply won’t be money available for projects such as this.

We have the NHS , education, police and fire services, and mental health services all needing urgent funding so any investment must come from the private sector.

I understand Marvin has recently visited China in the hope of finding investors for Bristol.

I hope he assured them he fully supports business and the established entrepreneurial culture which exists in the UK because, in my experience of dealing with the Chinese, this will be high on their score sheet when it comes to investing.

China might portray itself as a socialist or communist country but it behaves as capitalist and fully recognises the importance of business to economic expansion and prosperity.

The question must be asked whether, even with the money, an underground system could really be part of Bristol in 2030?

The answer to that, from a technical point of view, is: definitely.

The best method in my opinion would be what’s called ‘bottom up cut and cover’. It is the system used initially when building the London Underground.

You close a road, cut out a deep trench, install the track and platforms before covering it with a new road, which will look much as it did before, only better.

It gives an opportunity to install better pedestrian facilities and added bike lanes, for example.

Stations can be located along the route in the most appropriate locations. Really, it is quite simple albeit very expensive and time consuming.

You need to negotiate land ownership but with highways and the city council owning a lot of the land needed, this might not be as difficult a task as it first seems.

As well as being the initial method for the London Underground in the 1860s, ‘cut and cover’ was used again to construct Canary Wharf Station which opened in 1999, so it is tried and tested.

It isn’t the practical side which causes the problem, it is, as always, the money.

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