West of England plans £350m spend with eyes on metro prize


This week the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) will discuss plans to invest £350m in transport over the next 20 years, as well as currently unfunded plans for a mass transit system.

A meeting of the authority in Bristol on Friday (1 February) will consider proposals to invest £580m to support ‘clean and inclusive economic growth’, including £350m for transport; £100m for homes; £80m for business and £50m for skills.

Upmarket Bristol suburb Clifton

WECA is chaired by regional mayor Tim Bowles and is made up of three member councils – Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Mr Bowles, said: ‘I have been working hard to raise the profile of our region with central government and as a result we have already secured over £180m in extra funding from government – this is in addition to the £1bn over 30 years agreed in the devolution deal.’

Transport proposals include:

  • Rail improvements, including MetroWest, and investment into infrastructure and stations
  • Mass transit – exploring new, sustainable public transport alternatives
  • Improving and extending bus routes (including metrobus)
  • Investing in park and rides alongside alterations to roads to reduce traffic volume
  • A range of schemes to encourage more people to walk and cycle

A report to the meeting will set out the next steps towards a mass transit network, which the authority said could potentially include buses, and overground/underground rail.

Four key routes are being considered:

  • Bristol to airport – connecting the city centre, South Bristol, and the airport
  • Bristol to North Fringe – connecting the city centre, North Bristol, Southmead Hospital, Cribbs Causeway
  • Bristol to East Fringe – connecting the city centre, East Fringe and East Bristol
  • Mass transit Bristol to Bath – 'initial priority for metrobus corridor to Bath, with longer-term ambition for a high-frequency mass transit solution between Bristol and Bath'

The committee will be asked to agree an initial £200,000 to further develop a strategic outline business case (SOBC), within guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT), and a detailed study of transport requirements for Bath and the wider North East Somerset area.

A report to the committee indicates that the two studies could cost up to £2.5m over a period of 18 months to two years.

The SOBC will look in more detail at demand, scope of project, and its potential outputs and benefits.

The document does not provide a cost for the mass transit system itself. Last year, Bristol City Council's draft transport strategy under mayor Marvin Rees included a possible underground metro rail system at a cost of up to £4bn for three lines.

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