The Arena comes back to the Bristol Cabinet on Tuesday April 4. Leaving aside the build costs, transport and parking are high up the list of challenges.
The previous mayor contracted the operator to provide 200 parking places for staff, whilst telling the public there would be no parking at the arena and cancelling the car park at 1-9 Bath Road. That is now back in, and would, in the long term, make money which can be used to fill the funding gaps, in particular on public transport.
It will mean more traffic at peak times and in particular will put massive pressure on the u-turn opposite Clarence Road. Fortunately, alleviation is at hand with a right turn from Wells Road onto Bath Road.
This, together with the need for a real consultation with residents on a proper Arena parking protection scheme, was explained to the mayor recently with back up from other Councillors, and received a positive reception to both.
At busy times, the queues along the Wells Road are very bad indeed. The bus lanes are pretty good, but until the public can fully trust that there will be a fully reliable and sensibly-priced bus service, they will be reluctant to trust their commute to public transport.
First Bus’s decision to axe the 51 service made the point; well over 1000 passengers are using the Wessex replacement daily, and now, surprise, surprise, First are putting on extra short route 2’s down the Wells Road to compete.
The answer to this is franchising, where companies bid to run routes and timetables decided by the new metro mayor as a public service. We are absolutely committed to this, and it is why a Tory metro mayor would be a disaster.
Better public transport benefits not only those who use it, but also those who have to use their own vehicles and hate congestion.
A significant extra factor that will keep the traffic moving is the continuing spread of club cars along the Wells Road corridor. Each one takes ten owned cars out of the system, and makes public transport more viable.
The proposals for a massive urban extension at Whitchurch are a serious threat. For Marvin Rees to agree to a huge house building splurge that will add to Wells Road congestion was wrong.
There are better places to put urban extensions with better public transport, and the new metro mayor must review this as a matter of urgency.
However much this is reduced, there still needs to be a Park & Ride outside Whitchurch that feeds in down the Wells Road. The present plan is for a Park & Ride that goes around the as-yet unbuilt ring road needs much more ambition.
The small relief to the Wells Road that the new South Bristol link will produce will be more than lost by the mayor’s new housing splurge at Hengrove, which breaks the long-term promise of a destination park in the local plan. It’s amazing that the Green Party approved this.
The remaining piece of the jigsaw is the junction with Callington Road/Airport Road, which clogs up almost as badly as the equivalent at Bath Rd. Major junction re-engineering is needed at both ends of Callington Road, but I suspect that instead the Bristol Mayor is relying on the ring road to reduce commuter woes.
The final major problem is the air pollution from traffic which gets worse as you near town. The busses can be regulated, and some of the heavy lorries can be diverted, but the real long-term solution is the hydrogen powered vehicles which other cities are embracing and the previous mayor blocked. In Avonmouth, we have the perfect site for hydrogen production to make us the clean air capital of the UK.
Gary Hopkins is a Liberal Democrat Councillor for the ward of Knowle.