All too often, politicians write articles for Bristol24/7 only to be negative. Regular contributors – seeking publicity for themselves or points for their parties, rather than progress for Bristol – take the opportunity to moan, instead of setting out a positive vision for our city. Elsewhere, others have still yet to apologise for or fully retract a recent press release which mistakenly attacked the position of our mayor (and indeed themselves) on the need to clean up air quality in Bristol. For your local Labour Councillors, it’s all about trying to get things done.
Under Marvin’s administration, transport is moving in the right direction: new low-carbon biogas and electric buses, road network improvements, West of England (WECA) funding secured for Bristol Underground studies, free Wi-Fi and contactless payments across First’s fleet, a cross-party Congestion Task Group, the new world-class traffic operations centre, work underway on Bristol’s first new train station in more than two decades, and much more besides.
From City Hall to Westminster, Bristol’s Labour representatives are fighting for better transport. All of our MPs have been holding the Government’s feet to the fire over the much-delayed electrification of the Great Western Railway. Mismanagement of this project cost taxpayers more than the annual budget of Bristol City Council, and it’s still not clear if the full project will ever go ahead.
All of our MPs also deserve credit for voting for the Bus Services Bill, which would have given councils the freedom to set up locally-run services. The Tories took this provision out so that only metro mayors like WECA’s Tim Bowles have such powers, as well as pre-existing, and award-winning services elsewhere – like Nottingham and London. We look forward to working together with metro mayor Bowles to benefit Bristol and the wider region.
Bristol is one of very few cities where bus use is actually growing. And James Freeman, First’s modernising Managing Director, deserves a lot of credit. But we know that the wheels of progress need to keep on turning.
FirstGroup have been investing in new vehicles and have provided real-time information at bus stops for a while. Fares can now be paid by mobile phone or touch card, so the service is far better in many ways than it has been in years gone by.
But many of Bristol’s bus routes are historic: they take you into town and that’s it. Our ambition is for a Bristol bus service that does far more than that. Not everybody wants to, or can, cycle, and for too many journeys, Bristolians justifiably see their cars as the only realistic choice. We need to make more choices available, and make buses the default option in far more cases.
We made a commitment during last year’s elections to improve Bristol’s bus routes, and now we’re asking your views to get those improvements right. Where do you go now and where do you want to go? We have made a simple online questionnaire. It will only take a couple of minutes to complete so please, help us to help you. If you’ve always wanted a bus to take you somewhere, now’s your chance to say so.
From my own ward, I know of the need for residents in east Bristol to have a direct service to Temple Meads station, while other parts of the city are much better connected. But the more opinions we can gather, the better: decision-makers need data. Bus companies need a head of steam to persuade them to revise existing routes and implement new ones.
Whatever public transport schemes we would like to see – and there are a lot – deregulated buses will remain a critical part of Bristol’s public transport infrastructure for the foreseeable future. We look forward to reading your responses and building a better connected Bristol.
Fabian Breckels has served as the local Labour Councillor for St George Troopers Hill ward since 2011 and leads the Bristol Labour buses working group. Take the bus routes survey.
Top image: Bristol Labour buses working group. From L-R: Councillors Steve Pearce (St George Central), Tom Brook (Bishopston & Ashley Down), Fabian Breckels (St George Troopers Hill), Don Alexander (Avonmouth & Lawrence Weston) and Mhairi Threlfall (Eastville and Cabinet Lead for Transport). Councillor Paul Goggin (Hartcliffe & Withywood) also serves as part of this group.