Bristol's 'rapid bus network' could see bendy buses and Oyster-like travel cards

new bristol rapid bus network plans
Transport chiefs have revealed how a rapid bus network would work in Bristol

Transport chiefs have revealed how a rapid bus network would work in Bristol, complete with bendy buses and an Oyster-like card system.

The system will be based on a central network of interchanges where passengers hop on and off, while mini-orbital buses serve outer suburbs taking people to mobility hubs for onward travel.

It is the first phase of the city's multi-billion pound mass transit system, which mayor Marvin Rees released more details about at a press conference last week.

A series of different coloured routes will be put in place for connecting journeys through the city. Credit: Bristol City Council

After the briefing, Bristol City Council strategic city transport service manager Adam Crowther told a scrutiny committee that the bigger plans were 10 to 15 years away.

However, the council do not want to wait that long to see change - so the rapid bus network is to come first to underpin mass transit.

Mr Crowther said the medium-term vision was for passenger waits of less than five minutes on an anticlockwise circular stopping at Broadmead, the city centre, Bristol Bridge, Redcliffe, Temple Meads, Old Market and Cabot Circus.

Bristol City Council growth and regeneration scrutiny commission meeting on March 11. Credit: Bristol City Council

Mr Crowther told the growth and regeneration scrutiny commission: “The idea of the scheme is that we will have high-quality, fast, reliable services that are almost fully segregated from general traffic, always in bus lanes apart from very small stretches where we wouldn’t expect any congestion.

“That is really critical to giving us that reliability and frequency, so this feels very much like a mass transit system – you go to the stop, there will be a bus within five minutes and it will be reliable.”

He showed members a map with proposed routes, including from Long Ashton park and ride through to the M32, from the Portway via Bristol Bridge down to Hicks Gate or even further to Keynsham and Bath.

“It’s that reliability and frequency which is going to change the way people think about interchange in terms of the bus and public transport network," he continued.

“Interchange has historically not been very well supported in the area.

“If you don’t have a reliable network or one that doesn’t turn up very frequently, you’re not going to get good interchange, so it’s really important we have that level of segregation and frequency to make interchange an acceptable and desirable approach.

“There are a couple of gaps – one around the Bearpit and one around Redcliffe roundabout which we need to resolve over the next few years to tie together these hubs.”

Mr Crowther told the meeting on 11 March that a rethink of the vehicle fleet was also needed.

Council leaders say a change in fleet is needed to drive up confidence in residents.

“If we are going to convince people to make a wholesale change to mass transit, we need to make it more attractive,” he said.

“Double deckers are great but there are vehicles like the Belfast Glider [bendy bus] where you don’t have to go upstairs for seats.

“We need to build that high-quality vehicle into the scheme as early as possible.”

He said smaller orbital services around neighbourhoods in outer areas could run every 10 to 15 minutes instead of existing hourly ones that to head into the city centre but get stuck in traffic and delayed.

Mr Crowther said the West of England Combined Authority was working on a version of the Oyster card integrated ticketing as well as future mobility zones – transport hubs for different modes of travel, including electric scooters, that would be the circular suburban buses’ main destination.

It is hoped that with better connections through the city there will be more business for local high streets.

On top of increased efficiency in the transport system, it is hoped better connections will encourage people to make use of all the high streets the city has to offer.

“The real opportunity for this is tying these into our existing local high streets, recreating local high streets as the real centre of activity for neighbourhoods,” Mr Crowther said.

“During Covid a lot of people have reengaged with their local high streets and we want to build on that, which is where liveable neighbourhoods come in as well, making local high streets more attractive places to visit and taking out some of the traffic.”

Credit: Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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