We all know that congestion is a problem at peak times in our region, and I understand that commuters have been frustrated by recent disruption.
I’m leading on a huge amount of work improve transport for our residents and people travelling into the region. The West of England Combined Authority is investing millions in bus and train travel, and walking and cycling routes, to tackle congestion and improve air quality.
I’m working with the bus companies and the region’s leaders on plans to double the frequency of bus services. More than 70,000 passenger journeys are made on metrobus every week and, according to a passenger survey, we have already seen a shift of almost 20% from car to metrobus. I plan to build on that success with more services and better connections. We can all see that the existing dedicated metrobus lanes are working well but I know that at peak times congestion to get to them is an issue. As a region we all have to make some tough decisions if we are to allocate more road space to buses. We’re also investing in Park and Rides to reduce the volume of traffic into our city centres.
But it’s not just about buses. We’re starting to make improvements to rail services. On the Severn Beach line, we’re planning direct services to Bath and Westbury, re-opening the Henbury line and more frequent services to Yate. We will also be opening new train stations in Portishead, Henbury, Ashley Down, North Filton, Portway, Pill, and Charfield, with plans for more. This will give 50,000 more people direct access to the rail network and 180,000 will have better services to and from existing stations.
Our longer-term transport plans will take time to develop and build – it’s important that we don’t just focus on quick fixes because we need sustainable solutions that will work into the future. We’ve got to find new ways of doing things, and we’re working on a new and ambitious mass transport system that will revolutionise the way we move people around the West of England, dramatically improving congestion and air quality while reducing our carbon emissions.
We’re investing in improving walking and cycling routes – this already includes Bath River Line, Cribbs Patchway, Keynsham, Aztec West and Temple Quay. Increasing numbers of residents are now cycling or walking and we know that our levels are above other core city regions. We’ll be spending millions on walking and cycling improvements over the next five years, with more to come.
Smart transport and technology have a key role to play – technology can support better management of our network and provide information and choice to commuters, helping reduce congestion and improving air quality. The West of England is renowned as a home of innovation and testing for future transport and mobility services, and we have full commitment from partners across the region – our councils, our universities, and the commercial sector.
We’ve put a huge amount of work into developing our Future Mobility Zone proposals, and we have committed almost £4 million from our regional investment fund to make this happen. This funding from the Department for Transport is essential to help us stimulate transport and technology providers to work with us, and see real transformation in the way people travel and use technology.
I believe these proposals would lead to real innovation which would benefit our residents, our environment and our economy.
As West of England Mayor, I’m ambitious for our region, bringing partners together to improve transport on whole region basis, because people’s journeys don’t stop at council boundaries. We are working hard to provide sustainable, long-term solutions to help people move around the region more easily, reducing congestion and improving the environment we live in.