Bristol-Bath cyclepath still under threat?

Maps suggest 'rapid transit' bus route may still be on agenda

A new map from the West of England Partnership – one of the groups behind a failed proposal for a rapid bus route along part of the Bristol to Bath cyclepath – suggests the idea is still on their agenda.

It shows two potential 'rapid transit' bus routes – one from Emersons Green to Temple Meads Station along the M32 motorway and A4174 ring road, and another that links the same two places but passes further south.

According to Chris Hutt of Green Bristol Blog, this second route would almost certainly use part of the railpath, given that roads and streets in that area are too narrow or busy for the 'bendy buses'.

"Since the Liberal Democrats came to power in Bristol just a year ago we all assumed that the plans to run Bus Rapid Transit down the railway path ... would be finally laid to rest," he wrote on his blog. "Noises were made about giving the path greater protection and removing the BRT proposal from the development plans for the city.

"So I for one thought that, with Emersons Green to Bristol city centre served by BRT via the M32 and ring road, we could finally lower our guard on the original proposals for the railway path route. [However] ... the line shown [on the map] can only mean the railway path is still targeted.

"With an election on the way now is the moment to finally put the BRT-on-railway path plan to death. If we wait for the WoEP to choose a time more favourable to themselves then we might live to deeply regret it."

The railpath is one of the UK's oldest bike routes and is hugely popular with local cyclists. It was largely due to their opposition that the original plan, which would have seen buses run along half of the 13-mile traffic-free route, was shelved.

The new map was used at a recent presentation on transport plans given by Bristol City Council, which is part of the West of England Partnership, along with the unitary authorities covering Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, and a range of social, economic and environmental partners.

Jon Rogers, executive member of the council's transport and sustainability executive, gave a strong response to suggestions that the railpath bus route was still on the table. "Bristol Lib Dems have said it won't run down railway path and West of England Partnership say they don't know where it will run," he said.

"I was elected on a platform of protecting the railway path, and will continue to do so. My principles demand rigorous honesty and openness, and I am determined that ideas and future plans from WoEP and Bristol Council are shared publicly.'   

WoEP spokesman Julian Dean, speaking exclusively to BikeRadar, said: "The map in question is highly stylised ... showing what we have funding for. No work would begin on this particular scheme until 2013 at the very earliest.

"We are very aware of the importance of the cycle path, but there is also a need to provide a transport link between Emersons Green and TempleMeads (the ring road/M32 rapid transit link is a different scheme). As yet we don't know how we are going to provide the transport link and we don't know where it's going to go."

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