Don’t talk to me about Integrated Transport

Danny Baker’s Saturday morning radio show on BBC 5 Live always has a talking point which starts with “Don’t talk to me about…”. The older i’ve got, the more i’ve found myself thinking (if not using) it in situations. Here is an example, illustrated by a couple of maps for the Bristol Metrobus services.

2017 map, taken from https://www.berkeleysquares.co.uk/2017/03/how-metrobus-could-transform-bristols-transport/, where it is credited to TravelWest (aka WEP / WECA / Avon2):
2017 MetroBusMap

2018 map, taken from TravelWest, https://travelwest.info/metrobus:

2018 MetroBusMap

Let’s be clear about this: Metrobus is probably the most ambitious Public Transport project ever undertaken in Bristol, but the results are already looking shaky before the first vehicles have entered service.

M1 manages to miss both Temple Meads and Parkway railway stations, despite coming within a kilometer of both of them. At Parkway, Hunts Ground Road appears to almost directly link with the M1 route and station building, but is not being used. In terms of “integrated transport”, something of a local and national government buzzword, the almost intentional avoidance of railway stations is a huge missed opportunity, particularly as Metrobus will damage the viability of other local bus services if it is successful. Remember this situation next time a public sector employee or representative criticises a bus company for failing to use “joined up thinking” or similar.

On a BBC Bristol interview, Cllr Colin Hunt (Con, Emersons Green, South Glos Cabinet Member for Transport) claimed that the work to prepare Parkway for Metrobus access from Hunts Ground Road is the responsibility of Network Rail, who have it pencilled in for “later this year”. Given NR’s record on delivering projects on time, we can expect this to slip. If you fancy a listen, here is the programme link; and an audio clip (7Mb).

The flagship M1 service will also be subject to competition. First recently announced their outsourcing of the M1 service to Hackney Community Transport, then quietly changed their Thornbury services to operate on a half hourly basis via the M32, omitting UWE to the Metrobus route through Bradley Stoke. This means that Thornbury service T1 will be significantly quicker than M1. It also means that First are contracting another operator to compete with themselves.

The proliferation of bus services around Bradley Stoke will doubtlessly lead to a reduction of existing service 73 which will (for as long as it survives) also provide the link to Parkway Station missing from Metrobus.

The Emersons Green – Parkway link has been abandoned. Although this is currently served by a Rotala Wessex service, the circuituous route means it can take an hour to travel the five miles between the Lyde Green and the station at peak times.

The Emersons Green M3 route will replace current service X48. This means that Bromley Heath will lose their express service to the city centre, and despite missing half the route, the whole M3 journey is likely to take significantly longer than the current X48 on account of serving the traffic black hole of UWE. Both the proposed “express” (in turquoise on the 2017 map) and the X48 have been ditched.

Another link which has disappeared is that between Long Ashton Park & Ride site and Hengrove Park (purple on 2017 map). Despite the protestations of Cllr Tim Kent and the other hand-wringing South Bristol Lib Dems, this white elephant was never going to be commercially viable and the council now seems to be surprised that this is the case. Long Ashton P&R primarily services North Somerset, and residents of North Somerset rarely get referred to South Bristol Community Hospital for treatment, thus demand over this section was always going to be negligible. Most of the link is utilised by the A4 Airport service (RATP Bath Bus Company) and that probably copes with the demand for services over the route.

At the risk of going political, I personally think the stone throwing by local Lib Dem Councillors regarding Metrobus services, missing links and the like is being done from a glass house. HCT Group (Hackney Community Transport which runs CT Plus, aka Bristol Community Transport) is chaired by the Lib Dem leader, Vince Cable. Perhaps if the Lib Dems think there is such demand for a service from Long Ashton to Hengrove Park, now would be the time to pressure HCT in to providing it. Or perhaps HCT Group under it’s shamefully fake “community” banner is too busy paying massive salaries to their senior staff to provide any more buses…?

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