Bristol rail network to be developed within 10 years

Browse By

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has recently announced his ambitions for the development of a three-line underground network connecting Bristol. The Mayor proposed an outline whereby it could be achieved “within ten years” at an estimated cost of around £4bn.

This ten-year timeline is planned to consist of three years of planning and design, and then a seven-year construction process. It is also understood that 65% to 75% of the train network is proposed to be underground. The most recent development is the Mayor’s announcement that he is seeking £3m from the West of England Combined Authority in order to fund a “scoping exercise”.

The plan could potentially solve the public transport crisis in central Bristol as it could alleviate a certain amount of the stress on Bristol’s current road network. This could prove particularly important in conjunction with council plans to build more than 26,000 homes in the next 30 years, significantly increasing the pressure on the road network.

One potential stumbling-block has also already been addressed, with the Mayor stating that an initial study of the geology indicated that it would be suitable for tunneling. Likewise, the mayor continued to elaborate, saying: “we’re looking at options on trains and tracks that would be laid”.

Nevertheless, when initial plans were unveiled in late summer, the original figure amounted to £2.5bn and, with the sudden rise to £4bn, questions surrounding financing the project are emerging. The leader of Bristol City Council’s Conservative group, Mark Weston, has requested transparency and an increased level of detail regarding the project.

Weston specifically stated: “I want far more detail to be released, especially around how this potentially gargantuan cost is to be met, before supporting such a bid that could saddle the taxpayer with a massive debt.” Despite Mr. Weston’s criticisms, he did approve of the “ambition” of the project.

The Mayor did visit China earlier this month seeking financial investment and immediate reports suggest he had some success with him describing it as a “significant investment opportunity”.

Whilst there is no doubt that this is an ambitious project, it also represents a chance, as in emulating cities such as London, Glasgow and Liverpool, to transform the public transport system. Therefore, although some label it as a “pie-in-the-sky idea” others deem it necessary, with Bristol currently the third most congested city in the UK and desperately in need of change.