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Work on Bristol’s mass transit system could start in 2029 or 2030

The city’s public transport system was promised by Mayor Marvin Rees during elections last year, but at a meeting this week he put forward a possible timeline for the works.

Illustration: Scott Luís Masson


Mayor Marvin Rees has said diggers could move in to begin work on Bristol’s long-awaited mass transit system by 2029 or 2030, in schemes involving both overground and underground routes.

He spoke at a city council cabinet meeting where members formally accepted Bristol’s allocation of £191 million for public transport projects over the next five years from government funding.

At the meeting on Tuesday April 5, they also approved a 20% local contribution from Bristol City Council of £38.2 million, which is required to unlock the money.

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Improvements to public transport routes, the Long Ashton Metrobus service and Bristol to Hengrove Metrobus line, as well as making railway stations more accessible and delivering two ‘liveable neighbourhood’ pilot schemes, are promised but will all need business cases signed off by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA).

Speaking at cabinet on Tuesday, he said the potential timeline for the mass transit system depended on levels of political support and focus across the region, and that early consultation on 19 different options for mass transit had already been delayed but should go out soon.

Rees put forward that by 2024/2025, the outline business case could be completed, if the 19 options are successfully narrowed down. He said by 2026/27, he could imagine a full business case, and that diggers could begin work in 2029/30.

He added that all this work should have happened years ago but that future city leaders should reap the benefits of building on it and delivering the transport system that the city needs.

Disagreements in City Hall

Decisions around how the mass transit system should work in Bristol have been fractious.

In the meeting on Tuesday, Rees said: “There has been some political gaming, political naysaying about mass transit but it’s a very straightforward process.

“You put the best on the table, you clearly set out what the best is for Bristol as a city.”

At the last full council meeting, a Green motion was unanimously passed which recommended WECA produce a study into the alternatives to an underground system. The Greens voiced concerns that the best system would not necessarily be the underground supported by Rees, but whichever system would make Bristol best placed to meet its 2030 net zero carbon target.

“It was so disheartening at the last full council meeting to hear people saying it can’t be done, even before we’ve tested whether or not it can be done. It’s so lacking in ambition for the city,” Rees said.

In the full council meeting, everyone agreed a tube network was “not the be all and end all” for the region’s mass transit system, while councillors from other opposition groups branded the idea of an underground “fanciful” and “pie in the sky”.

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  • The historic lack of vision at Bristol City Council simply goes on and on. Some councillors may not ‘like’ Marvin Rees for political reasons and this always seems to get in the way of virtually any kind of vision that will the city forward. It really is time that some councillors just put down their political swords and actually do something that will actually get people moving around the city without their cars. Also a underground/overground system would be seen as really making Bristol a ‘grown up’ city. Many from all political persuasions would like to just keep the city as it is, thinking that big projects like a transit system would ruin the city’s character.


  • Bristol is a very hilly city which makes certain modes of public transport more challenging. What’s so disappointing is the slow pace of any change in terms of the “low-hanging fruit” such as reopening stations and railway lines that are already there for public transport use. Also having a city centre which is so spread with no clear public transport hub at one spot doesn’t help. Whatever happened to plans for that at Temple Meads? Linking Temple Meads to the rest of the city centre including to Queens Road with some form of rapid transit would make a huge difference, especially given the plans for the University at Temple Quarter. Likewise building the arena there made sense to everyone except Mayor Rees who for reasons that remain unclear preferred to leave the site vacant for years and back speculative developers at Filton instead. Linking that potential white elephant to the public transport network becomes a must as does all the house building at Cribbs Causeway, but again progress on the current “Bristol Metro” scheme moves at the pace of a snail.
    Bristol has generally managed to thrive without a good public transport system in the past 30 years but if it’s to have future as a dynamic city, which also meets its own future environmental and climate targets, it is essential to get something much more robust and multi-modal in place. Sinking an enormous amount of money into an underground system that is more “pie in the sky” than a concrete proposal may well not be the way to go. Also making walking and cycling truly pleasurable experiences in the city also has to be a priority. Self-propelled transit will always be the most environmentally friendly even compared to electric vehicles, whether they are scooters, buses, trams or trains.


  • Move the old bus station to Temple Meads.
    Integrate bus and train
    It’s such a no brainer!!!!
    There is a once in a lifetime chance with the redevelopment around Temple Meads
    The existing bus station was built whilst Beeching was at work and trains seemed doomed.
    There are next to no buses to get on when you get off a train.
    Look at all the taxis waiting.
    That tells you all you need to know.
    This has to be at part of the future for public transport in Bristol but no one seeems interested!!!


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