At next Tuesday’s (March 15) Full Council meeting, Green Councillors are bringing a motion calling on Bristol council and WECA (the West of England Combined Authority) to consider all practical and effective mass transit options in work due to be carried out by the Combined Authority, ensuring plans are not dominated by Marvin Rees’ preferred option of underground routes.
The motion, proposed by Councillor Emma Edwards, is a golden motion, meaning it will be the first on the agenda to be discussed. Some of the key points are:
Explaining the motion, Councillor Edwards said:
“After years of transport inaction WECA has now approved significant funds to develop a mass transit project for Bristol. It’s urgent that we end up with an achievable plan based on clear criteria, which first and foremost takes the climate emergency and the effects of climate change into account, and can be delivered in the fastest time with the least carbon emissions. Marvin Rees has stated on his blog that this money will be looking at a plan for tunnels for an underground. I think it should be spent finding the transport system which is most deliverable for Bristol now, and take into account active travel as well.”
Bristol’s Labour Mayor first proposed an underground system for the city in 2017, at the time suggesting it would become a reality within 10 years and might cost £2.5bn, later suggesting another figure of £4bn. Practical and financial feasibility studies were announced but the results were never published. In February this year WECA approved a sum of money to consider transit options in Bristol and the surrounding area, which Marvin Rees amended to add that tunnels “may well be needed”. However the Combined Authority Mayor Dan Norris has since poured cold water on an underground, saying that a London-style underground was “not viable” and he would not write any “blank cheques”, but a system “based on trams and other forms of transport” was much more likely.
Green Councillors are concerned that there are multiple financial, practical and environmental issues with a potential underground system or construction of multiple tunnels in the city. They have brought this motion to ensure that the Combined Authority focuses on finding the most achievable and effective solution which reduces carbon emissions in the city as fast as possible to tackle the climate emergency.
Councillor Edwards added:
“The Mayor – currently the lone supporter of an underground in Bristol – will step down in two years’ time. So this motion is seeking to ensure the decisions about transport we make today are ones which still hold up in three or four years’ time, and avoid wasting any more time and money going back to the drawing board once again. Greens have big ambitions for our city’s transport – a truly sustainable transport system can help get people out of cars, tackle air pollution, cut commuter traffic and reduce our carbon footprint. There are loads of ideas we need to explore which could deliver this – trams, light rail, or simply improving bus routes.
“Given concerns around cost, deliverability and climate risk of an underground system, we cannot afford to put all our eggs in one basket – we need to consider all the options to ensure we get value for money and effective action on the climate emergency. My motion sets out a clear demand for WECA and Bristol to do this, and ensure we aren’t leaving any better projects on the table.”
Underground stations in cities around the world flooded last year, including in London, New York and Hong Kong. The recent IPCC report noted that Europe faces increased risk of flooding as climate change impacts take hold.
Councillor Ed Plowden is seconding the golden motion. He noted that the best option for the city may not be a large engineering project but simply making changes that the city’s Labour administration has so far refused to consider, such as taking road space away from cars to enable more protected routes for buses and cycling.
“There’s a common assumption, often from politicians, that huge scale engineering projects are the solution to all our transport problems, but really good city design and planning doesn’t have to cost the earth.
“However it’s crucial that before we commit billions of pounds of taxpayer’s money to any large engineering project, we also examine the tried and tested practical measures we can take right now to transform transport in the city – such as greening our buses, reallocating existing road space or parking to make room for bus or bike lanes, and a whole network of liveable neighbourhoods to support active and sustainable travel. For too long practical measures like these have been overlooked in Bristol in favour of headline grabbing ideas with little detail behind them. While other cities have been getting on with transport improvements, Bristol is being left behind in traffic. This motion will ensure those effective and affordable options are properly weighed up and considered.”
To read the full motion click here.