A new tram network for Bristol? Campaign group says it will be cheaper than an underground

The plans would effectively recreate Bristol pre-war tram network
A mock up of how the tram could look on Gloucester Road. Credit: Moving Bristol Forward

A new network of trams in Bristol would cut air pollution and be cheaper than creating an underground in the city, according to transport campaigners.

Moving Bristol Forward says the "car-dependent" way people get around is "unsustainable" and inefficient, and it is now proposing a new tram system in the city.

It says a first-line could open as early as 2026, claiming there is "almost certainly" sufficient demand for it.

Following a study carried out by Transport for Greater Bristol Alliance and Zero West CIC, and supported by the Foundation for Integrated Transport, Moving Bristol Forward is now proposing a tram system in Bristol which would effectively recreate the city's pre-war network.

Where would the tram routes go?

The routes the campaign groups wants to be created. Credit: Moving Bristol Forward

It wants the first route to run from the A38 - close to a proposed park and ride near the M5 - to the city centre with stops around every 400 metres along Gloucester Road.

Another route would see the southwest of Bristol having a tram route looping around Hengrove, Imperial Park and Bishopsworth, another potential route out to Bristol Airport.

The final proposed tramline would run from the southeast edge of the city at Brislington with two different routes along the Bath Road and the Wells Road.

Bristol City Council and the West of England Combined Authority are already looking at plans for a new "mass transit system" in Bristol.

Mayor Marvin Rees wants it to come in the form of an underground, but new WECA Mayor Dan Norris has said he cannot rule the plans "in or out" because it is estimated to cost around £4billion.

Moving Bristol Forward says it wants Bristol to be the first city in the UK to use a "third generation" of trams, which require shallower tracks and are cheaper to install.

It also says trams are cheaper to run than buses as one tram, with one driver, can hold as many as 200 people, where a bus has a capacity of 70 people.

The proposals would effectively recreate Bristol pre-war tram network Credit: Moving Bristol Forward

Emilia Melville, co-ordinator of the Moving Bristol Forward campaign, said: “We have submitted our report to all the local authorities in the region and to WECA as a contribution to this vital discussion.

“We look forward to engaging with them as we continue to argue for efficient, equitable, low carbon transport in Bristol and WECA region.

"Trams are top of our list for more detailed consideration in planning for a 21st-century transport system for our city."

A spokesperson for Weca confirmed the authority is looking at all options but appeared to quash the idea of trams on existing roads, with the caveat any solution would have to be ‘fully segregated’.

A spokesperson said: “A variety of transport options are currently being assessed to understand which technologies might work best for the region.

“The priority is to understand what is the best fit for each area based on a wide range of factors. This includes learning from examples of where trams have been introduced to understand the conditions in which they’ve worked well and the reasons there have been challenges elsewhere.

“Any potential solutions would have to be high-capacity and fully segregated to deliver a high-speed service."

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said the council still backed the idea of a 'transformative' mass transit system but did not mention either a proposal for a tram or underground.

“We have ambitious plans in place to deliver a high-capacity mass transit system for Bristol. By being frequent, reliable and sustainable, it will offer a genuine alternative to car use," she said.

The council says its mass transit plan is "underpinned by the bus deal and new railway stations", saying measures to reduce pollution such as the closure of Bristol Bridge and improvements to public transport via MetroBus and MetroWest have already been put in place.

"We need to ensure that, as the city recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, everyone can play a role by walking, cycling or using public transport for short journeys wherever possible.

“A mass transit system will create a more connected city, removing barriers to education and employment, reducing congestion, improving our air quality and delivering carbon reduction targets," she added.