This is the speech I made on the Henbutry loop to yesterdays council meeting.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city where we had a public transport network we can be proud of. Don’t you just want to be able to get on a train or bus near to where you live and actually have a decent chance of getting close to most of the major sites in Bristol? For most of the day? Without having to wait for too long?
I’d like to speak in favour of having the Henbury loop rather than having a Henbury Spur.
In my opinion the proposals to go for a Henbury spur rather than a loop sum up just what is wrong with transport decisions made in this city. It reminds me very much of Bus Rapid Transit – a scheme determined by the funding available rather than the right scheme.
I don’t particularly blame the authors of the report for doing this. In some ways, getting anything at all is a bonus. But what sticks in the craw is the sheer lack of ambition – and indeed the sheer lack of control over how we run ‘our patch’.
The benefit of the Henbury loop can be summed up as follows. It forms the basis of a local rail network within the northern part of Bristol.
It is the hub from which most other local rail projects in that area flow. It enables a passenger route around Bristol. It shows that we are serious about local rail. It shows we are serious about sustainable transport. It shows we are prepared to make a commitment to a sustainable future. It addresses climate change. It addresses congestion. It addresses air quality.
If you look at the 2011 census figures, it suggests that something like 2% of the population commuted by train, while 50% commute by car. It must be obvious to everyone that we need to be adopting an ambitious strategy to change this. We need at least five times as many rail passengers. We need to maximise the numbers who walk, cycle or take the bus as well.
If you drill down into the detail of what the report into the viability of the Henbury loop – then consider this:
The report suggests and additional 13 passengers a day on the loop. The report suggests that there would be 4.4 passengers per day between Henbury and Avonmouth. The much slower bus has about 12 passengers per journey between the same destinations. Does anyone seriously believe these projections?
There is no reference to the expansion of Cribbs Causeway. Has the potential for employment in Severnside been taken into account? Is RPS taken into account? I’m told not. Growth rates of passenger take-up are suspiciously low. How have the serious levels of congestion in the Northern fringe been taken into account? There are a series of questions which can be asked about the scheme
This is why it is so frustrating to have to say - again and again and again – we need a world class local rail network. We need trains which are sufficiently frequent so as not to need a timetable. We need the choice. We need the flexibility. Above all, we need the Henbury loop.
The choice we are given in the report is to either accept the decision – or to object and refer it back. I will be voting to refer it back on the grounds of lack of ambition and a suspicion that the business case for the Henbury loop has been woefully under-estimated. I hope others agree with me.