OPINION: Karin Smyth MP on the transport needs of people in Bristol South

(Newspaper column as seen in the South Bristol Voice in October 2020)

The coronavirus pandemic has changed so much for so many people – including the ways we live, work and socialise. One fundamental shift has been the way we travel.

For some, homeworking means no need for a daily commute. Reduced or changing bus and train timetables at the start of lockdown meant that more people were moving to active travel – on foot or by bike. I’ve been cycling from the train station to Parliament and plan to try out an e-bike. Bristol City Council has schemes which let you try out e-bikes and e-vehicles for free – see www.bristol.gov.uk for details.

With social distancing in mind, local transport planners have revisited plans for the city and are asking for your thoughts. Much of this centres around reducing car travel to help the city meet its clean air target, which is hugely important; but we need to also make sure that these do not cut off Bristol South from the rest of the city. I have asked to see an impact assessment before any permanent decisions are made.

Initial changes are already in place with the closure of Bristol Bridge to vehicles and more of the city centre is now pedestrianised. If these changes become permanent, it could mean that people needing to get to the centre or cross the city have to go via the Temple Meads one-way system, adding a significant amount of time (and extra fuel costs) to their trip. Plans are also afoot to close Greville Road/Upton Road and Dean Lane in Southville to through traffic, and remove roadside parking on Bedminster Parade and on North Street near Tesco.

Now, more than ever, we need a reliable and affordable bus network serving the whole of the city. We’re already hearing reports of overcrowding on buses in Bristol South, especially on school routes. People need to be able to get to school or work on time and deserve bus services which will ensure this. We do not currently have this, with many constituents reporting issues with key services. When Metrobus launched in 2018, we were promised a Hengrove to Long Ashton service and are still waiting for this. I helped get the service reinstated to the route-map, after it was removed, but we’re yet to see buses on the road.

I’ve continued to press regional Mayor Tim Bowles on this and have spoken about it in Parliament. I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts on local transport too. You can reach me via email: karin.smyth.mp@parliament.uk