2021 has begun with a lot of focus on the regrettable second-wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the hope that the rapid vaccine roll-out brings, particularly for residents in the West of England who can access the new vaccination ‘super hub’ at Ashton Gate stadium, as well as a number of vaccination hubs in GP surgeries and medical centres across the region.
Meanwhile, the Combined Authority has kicked off the new year by continuing to drive forward my plans to transform the region’s transport network. I have been delighted to make the investments needed to move several important projects to the next stage of delivery.
Last week I gave the green-light to expand the West of England’s e-scooter trails to new areas including Bishopston, St Werburghs, Easton and Bedminster in Bristol, and Oldfield Park and Bathwick in Bath. This reflects the success of the first three months of the trial where over 70,800 rides were taken by 23,100 residents, amounting to 177,300 miles travelled. I was particularly pleased to hear Avon and Somerset Police call the trial a ‘non-event’, in policing terms, due to the high levels of responsible usage of the e-scooters by residents. This expanded trial will offer another alternative to the car for short journeys to access essential work and services.
At the end of 2020, I was proud to set out my plans to transform rail travel over the next decade. This plan, agreed by the West of England Committee, is a vision to deliver new rail routes, new stations, and much more frequent services for residents across the region. Building upon my MetroWest suburban rail network, this is the first long-term regional rail plan for the West of England. This is only possible thanks to the Combined Authority leading a partnership with Network Rail and our councils to transform the network and end the decades of underinvestment in the region.
Thinking ahead to 2030, I am looking forward to seeing the reality of this new network and how it will transform the region. We will be re-opening the line to Portishead, increasing services on the Severn Beach line, transforming Bristol Temple Meads, and building new stations at Portishead, Pill, Ashley Down, Henbury, North Filton and Charfield.
And beyond this, we are already looking towards the next generation transport network for the region. This week, I was pleased to announce investment to progress to the next steps towards a mass transit system for the region. This funding will help us to identify options for this new network and help build up a business case for construction.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the way people travel around our region, so that people can live, get to jobs and education right across the West of England and not have to rely on cars. That will cut congestion, improve air quality and cut our carbon emissions so that as we recover from the pandemic, we build back better.