At a Cabinet meeting today (1 October), Greens called for bolder action to improve public transport in Bristol. They were responding to an item on the Labour Mayor’s so-called ‘bus deal’, which one councillor said was little different to the approach of previous administrations – “an assortment of tweaks to help unblock the bus network” in return for non-binding promises from the bus networks’ private operators.
Councillor Martin Fodor submitted a statement to the meeting, as well as questions asking how the proposed ‘bus deal’ would actually work. He argued that only tackling Bristol’s chronic traffic congestion would significantly improve public transport.
In December last year First Bus Chairman James Freeman said that he was unable to make a business case for investment in more buses for Bristol until the City’s congestion problem was dealt with. At the last Council Budget Meeting (February 2019) Green councillors proposed an amendment to generate at least £6m annual investment into Bristol’s buses, funded by a congestion charge on cars from outside the city.
"At the end of the day we aren’t going to get significantly better, cheaper or more reliable buses while they’re still bogged down in traffic"
Speaking outside the Cabinet meeting, Councillor Fodor said:
“I’ve heard the Mayor and his various Cabinet members for Transport announce the forthcoming ‘Bristol Bus Deal’ about half a dozen times now, so I was keen to see at last how it will help us get the better buses the city needs.
“But what we have today is barely even a plan – all we’ve got is a proposal for a document [an MoU] that could be agreed with bus companies – who might then commit to investing more – if the city then creates a series of piecemeal route improvement projects which would all need to come back to Cabinet for each project to get funding. Nothing is funded or agreed and we don't know what measures might be put in place if they get a budget – this is hardly a blueprint for better buses, let alone a ‘Bus Deal’.
“At the end of the day we aren’t going to get significantly better, cheaper or more reliable buses while they’re still bogged down in traffic – it’s the number one reason they’re delayed. There is already too much congestion for our buses to run smoothly today and tinkering around the edges like this will have little impact. What we need is bold action to reduce the amount of cars on Bristol’s roads – something none of the other parties are prepared to contemplate.
“Greens proposed a budget amendment last February that would fund better buses while also reducing traffic from out of town commuters with a congestion charge. The Mayor and other parties voted against it – but Greens know that improving public transport in a fast-growing city like Bristol means not being afraid to make big decisions.”
Councillor Fodor's statement and questions can be found in the Public Forum pack attached here.