Bristol fast bus project approved by transport secretary

Plans for a new guided busway scheme in Bristol have been approved by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

A visualisation of the West of England MetroBus system

The Transport and Works Act order, announced in a letter yesterday, grants planning permission to Bristol City Council’s and North Somerset Council’s application for a rapid transit system between Temple Meads train station in the city centre and Long Ashton park and ride.

The scheme will form part of the West of England’s wider MetroBus rapid transit project, a planned system of guided buses operating in dedicated lanes connecting the sub-region.

The Long Ashton to Temple Meads part of the network follows a loop around the city centre and covers land in both Bristol and North Somerset.

According to the letter, McLoughlin agrees with the inspector’s findings on how the scheme would address traffic congestion.

The inspector said the scheme "would provide significant savings in overall journey times for exisiting and future public transport passengers" between Long Ashton and the city centre.

It also said McLoughlin believes there would be "some benefits" that "would be supportive of economic growth" resulting from increased accessibility to Birstol city centre and its Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

The letter confirms that an amended part of the scheme proposed by city mayor George Ferguson in June, affecting the route just before it enters the city centre loop, will need separate planning permission.

The Department for Transport (DfT) provided £34.5 million funding towards the £50 million cost of the project in 2011.

The remainder of the money is being provided by the two authorities, who applied to the DfT for the order in June 2010. A public inquiry was held between May and July last year.

According to the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, the whole network will require £200 million of investment and is expected to open in about 2016.

In a statement, the West of England Joint Transport Executive Committee, part of the LEP, said: "This is a hugely significant milestone for MetroBus.

"It means we can move forward with confidence on the network in order to bring about a significant step change in the provision of public transport in the area."

The statement said the plans have been in development since 2006.

The secretary of state's decsion letter, DCS number 200-001-226, can be found here.