Features / Bristicles

14 ambitious transport plans for Bristol

By alma neu and helen salter, Wednesday Sep 6, 2017

With the news that mayor Marvin Rees is backing a £2.5bi scheme to build an underground railway network to ease Bristol’s congestion woes, we took a look back at some of Bristol other transport proposals.

1. Concreting over the Floating Harbour

1966 saw plans submitted for a road system to concrete over Bristol’s Floating Harbour, linking it up with Totterdown. The network never came fully to fruition, though remnants can still be traced in the curved roads crossing the Cumberland Basin.

2. Building a city in the sky

Originally planned by the council in 1966, pedestrian concrete paths and piazzas were set to float above the city centre. Whilst certainly ambitious in design, the plan was eventually abandoned, and its last trace, a pedestrian bridge in Lewins Mead, was destroyed in 2015.

3. Creating an outer-circuit road

Credit: Paul Townsend

A large swathe of the Victorian terraces of Totterdown were cleared in the 1970s to make room for the outer-circuit road, which was intended to ring around the city centre. Following the demolition, the site was abandoned and the road never built due to budget concerns.

4. Burying the M32

Credit: Dun Holm

A brazen solution for congestion and pollution issues that involves moving the M32 underground in order to reuse the space above was pitched in early 2017, but this possibility is still left ambiguously unauthorised.

5. Commercialising Filton Airport

Filton Airport was in use from 1910, through two world wars, until Concorde’s final flight in 2003. Filton has hosted a wide variety of transport plans over the years, but now its flying days are over, as the new multimillion pound Aerospace Bristol museum opens as a permanent final resting place for grounded planes, telling the story of Bristol’s engineering history. Despite potential gridlock problems, the latest proposal for over 2,000 homes, to be built on the old runway site, has been approved.

6. Expanding the Park & Ride

Credit: Geof Shepphard

After its long-awaited opening in 2011 and continued expansion, various petitions have called for new Park & Ride routes, particularly to serve the suburbs of north Bristol. Though it could do something to ease the terrible traffic, no plans to expand have been confirmed.

7. Making MetroBus happen

Following a pledged effort to improve Bristol’s public transport, MetroBus got the green light in 2014 and since then has been dogged by controversies, from spiralling costs to cyclists injured by the construction work. Much of Bristol city centre has been remodelled to accommodate the new service, including creating a new lane on the M32. MetroBus’ grand opening is anticipated this autumn.

8. Linking Bristol Airport

Over the years, several proposals have been made to provide more efficient routes to Bristol airport. Though plans are uncertain, recent ideas include an underground rail network with routes from the city centre, together with the possibility of an additional motorway junction on the M5 between junctions 20 and 21.

9. Bringing back the trams

A £200m light rail project was held up as the perfect solution to Bristol’s infamous traffic congestion problems. The super tram was set to link Bristol Parkway to the city centre. However, after troubles with government funding, with the scheme only increasing in cost, plans were officially shelved in 2004.

10. Commuting by ferry 

In April 2017, Bristol Ferries launched a new ferry service in the hopes of giving commuters an innovative method to avoid early morning traffic, with frequent ferries running right across the city. However, the new service has not been as well used as was hoped, and is likely not to continue next year.

11. Constructing a new bridge across the Floating Harbour

Credit: Steinsky

The developer who designed Bristol’s newest crossing, Castle Bridge – linking Castle Park to the Finzels Reach development, have hinted at another, bigger bridge running across the harbour, which would include a pedestrian and cycle route. However, plans to build this mega bridge are yet to be materialised.

12. Swinging on cable cars


Similar to the Harbour Cable Car in Barcelona, a cable car was planned to link different areas across the city back in 2008. Planners claimed it would be beneficial for the environment, a means to aid traffic congestion, and would look better than the London Eye. Plans, however, never came to fruition – a shame, as it certainly would’ve put Bristol on the map.

13. Zipping in by zip wire

Credit: My Photo Journeys

In 2015, suggestions were made for a zip wire to start from Clifton Observatory and run under the Suspension Bridge to the North Somerset side of the gorge. Due to heavy traffic and safety implications regarding motorists watching from the bridge, alongside parking inconveniences, the idea was quickly scrapped.

14. Connecting Emerson’s Green

In 2015, £80,000 was spent on a feasibility study for a new motorway junction, in between junctions 18 and 19 on the M4. This followed 15 years of Conservative lobbying, and the debate still rages: the latest consultation closes on October 16 2017. Local residents say the new junction could clear congestion for commuters getting onto the M4, but campaigners argue that building new roads only ever encourages more traffic.


Read more: 35 photos of Bristol’s former tram network

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