145 Oxford Street, BRISTOL, BS3 4RH
Phone 0117 9041043 Mobile: 07741 089 529 E-mail: stephenbs3 @ yahoo.co.uk
30 July 2005
Councillor Dennis Brown
Executive Member for Transport and Development Control
Dear Councillor Brown
I write to urge you to take an initiative to ensure that eventually we can have a good public transport hub in Bristol, serving the city and the sub-region.
I am also concerned by the apparently reactive rather than proactive role of planning in Bristol. One gets the impression that our ‘planners’ merely react to proposals brought in by developers, rather than working with the Council and the public to actually plan Bristol of the future. I have studied the strategic planning documents, tracing one facility, and saw that it was simply copied from one edition to another over the years. It was there only because always there. Why is there no model on public display showing where there will one day be new houses, hospitals, car parks, etc etc – including a transport hub?
Why cannot Bristol emulate other cities that have made positive decisions to work to achieve specified improvements – both in physical development and in cultural aspects? (I lived in Tower Hamlets when the Lib Dems took over control. They soon made enormous improvements to the townscape and the public facilities.)
I have lived and worked in many cities in the U.K. and abroad, always taking an interest in city planning, having done an Open University degree that included Urban Development. I also travel extensively, mainly using public transport, in both the developed and the developing worlds.
When I arrived in Bristol (car-less for the first time) three years ago I was staggered by the dreadful standard of public transport. I arrived at the ‘bus station’ and asked several officials and others how I could get to Totterdown which I knew was past the railway station. After frustrating mis-directions it was a long walk to a bus that was incredibly slow.
At a recent meeting in connection with the Best Value Review of Integrated Transport a senior official told a group of us that ‘The Centre’ was the ‘integrated transport hub’. I then did a study and submitted a report to my group (Sustainable Transport). This is available at http://home.clara.net/spetter/MyBlog/BPTH_Root.htm
(This website has several articles on the subject of Transport Hubs)
This study showed The Centre as being atrocious as a transport hub. It is inconvenient, dangerous, very poorly signed and far too extensive. And as mentioned it is too far from the railway station.
With the Best Value team I went to Southampton. There we found that a bus station is being built near the railway station, with a shuttle bus to the business and shopping centres. This is also the set-up in Bournemouth, where the railway station is not close to the centre. At a recent conference at @Bristol ("Living Cities") I asked planners from several cities about their integrated transport hubs and found almost all either have them or are currently developing them, e.g. Gloucester, Plymouth, Swindon. I previously lived in Wolverhampton which has sited their central bus station close to the railway station. All over the world, especially in Europe, cities like ours have their main bus station outside the railway station.
Here in Bristol I have campaigned for there to be a bus station next to (or over or under) Temple Meads railway station. (Another file on my web log is a fanciful description of it, written as if in 2015, same URL /TransportHub_40928.htm)
Everyone (except the aforementioned FirstBus senior manager) agrees it is highly desirable. This includes council officials and councillors, but they give an air of helplessness. They need political leadership and you councillor Brown are the one and only person with the authority to give it.
Currently the Area / Temple Quarter complex is being built on land that could well be our transport hub. This I regard as a failure of those we pay as Planners. But there are mechanisms available to you (such as Section 106) whereby you could require the developers to at least leave space for future development of an adequate hub. (They have promised to include an ‘integrated transport hub’ – but on enquiry one finds that this is ‘only a wish list’.)
There is also land on the other (city centre) side of the station.
I envisage the integrated transport hub serving the railway, most city buses, all sub-regional and long distance buses, car park, guarded cycle park, harbour ‘ferry’, under cover and with good facilities for people, a few retail outlets, café, news-stand, toilets, etc. And of course a large car park.
If bus crews were not to use the facility for parking while they take breaks not so much space would be needed. A bus station can be multi-level (see ‘Port Authority’ in New York). It can be underground, like the railway station at Schipol.
It could be integrated into a shopping mall or office development to provide capital and income.
I am sure that technical and commercial difficulties could be overcome. All that is really needed is political commitment and courage, plus a competent, visionary Chief Planner.
Frankly Councillor Brown, it is up to you. If you could achieve this (in the way Councils taken over by Lib Dems often have) then future generations of public transport travellers would be eternally grateful, and Bristol would more readily achieve many of its traffic and QOL targets.
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