How will the Bristol Metrobus fare?

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The new Metrobus transport system is set for its inaugural trip later this month on May 29, a long twelve years since it was first proposed back in 2006. During that time the project has largely dropped out of the public eye, and has been beset with difficulties and setbacks.

The most recent comical complication came just last month when it emerged that the buses simply did “not fit” the tracks. Meanwhile it was only last year that the development was delayed due to concerns surrounding the ticketing system.

The 3 routes are:

  • M1: Cribbs Causeway to Hengrove Park via the city centre
  • M2: Long Ashton Park & Ride to the city centre
  • M3: Emersons Green and Lyde Green Park & Ride to the centre

Bristolians could therefore be forgiven for drawing parallels with the ongoing Bristol Arena saga, as both have come at great cost to the taxpayer, and appear to be poorly executed with long delays.

This has been exacerbated in the case of the Metrobus with the overall cost raised in 2017, to an eye watering £230m.

The original proposal should be mentioned. Metrobus was designed to tackle poor transport links in south Bristol and stimulate economic growth, all delivered in an environmentally friendly way. This was to be achieved through hybrid buses and a combination of segregated busways and bus lanes.

The scheme promoters have also claimed that journey times could be reduced by up to 75% for certain routes, as the buses would gain priority over general traffic.

However, this has been challenged, with claims that former mayor George Ferguson’s alteration to the M3 route significantly lengthened journey times to the city centre. As a result, a revised economic appraisal in 2014 projected significantly lower passenger numbers than the original appraisal in 2011.

The environmental credentials have also been queried. The ‘Alliance to Rethink Metrobus’ produced a ‘Metrobus Green Capital 2015’ calendar and a map showing the planned destruction of green spaces across Bristol for the Metrobus scheme. Protestors took to the trees in an attempt to stop the building work, and although the campaign was ultimately defeated, it is symbolic of the general disquiet relating to the project. Many have questioned why money is not being invested in the existing rail system.

As the launch day draws closer there is no doubt that there are those who are looking forward to having better transport links. Those behind the project will also be hoping that the recent announcement of free tickets for the first 13 days of travel will go someway in giving the new system a boost.

However, with the Metrobus looking set to open in the coming weeks, will this be enough to persuade the general public to embrace yet another form of public transport? If so, then will it be capable of combating the gridlock traffic often experienced during rush-hour in Bristol?

These must be the markers of success for such an expensive and prolonged project, and only time will tell how it will fare.