New figures produced to justify Hatchet Road bus lane but cost pressures might just kill it off

Indicative artist’s impression of proposals on Hatchet Road (looking north).

The future of a controversial plan to construct a new southbound bus lane on Hatchet Road in Stoke Gifford looks set to be finally decided, without further public consultation, at a meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) Cabinet on Monday 4th December.

The move is likely to anger local campaigners who collected more than 3,300 signatures on a petition that called for the original decision to be reviewed, leading to the council resolving in July 2017 to bring forward alternative proposals for consideration and carry out further consultation.

The proposed new bus lane will form part of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) scheme, which will link The Mall at Cribbs Causeway with Bristol Parkway Station and serve the new developments planned for the former Filton Airfield site.

Local residents and councillors have expressed strong opposition to the bus lane because it will require mature hedgerows and trees to be removed from both sides of Hatchet Road. They also claim it is a waste of money, costing £2m to reduce bus journey times by just 29 seconds (revised to an average of 93 seconds in a new report prepared for this month’s meeting).

The overall cost of the CPME scheme is estimated at £35m, a major part of which will be spent on replacing the railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane with a much wider concrete structure that can accommodate a bus lane and a general traffic lane in each direction.

Members of the Hatchet Road Action Group have previously expressed preference for an alternative scheme involving the implementation of lay-bys at bus stops, which they claim would facilitate better traffic flow for all road users. This was substantiated by figures in SGC’s original report, which showed that it would achieve improved bus journey time savings in comparison to the bus lane option. However, officers advised against it on the grounds that it “would not necessarily deliver consistently reliable bus and MetroBus journey times”.

In the latest report, consultants say they have revisited the original analysis and identified shortcomings, such as a too pessimistic view being taken of the chance of MetroBus vehicles having to wait at pedestrian crossings and behind other buses at non-MetroBus stops. They also claim insufficient allowance was made for delays faced by buses re-entering the main traffic flow from lay-bys. The net result, it is claimed, is that the bus lane option can now be shown to perform better than lay-bys.

The report also contains a new analysis using improved traffic data from a different source (TomTom NV). This is said to have a much larger sample size than the data used for the original report, which originated from equipment carried on commercial vehicle fleets. The outcome of the new analysis shows that the bus lane option will save between 40 and 170 seconds on MetroBus journeys compared to between zero and 30 seconds for the lay-by option.

The possibility of closing the Parkway Railway bridge to general traffic as a way of mitigating the exclusion of the Hatchet Road bus lane from the CPME scheme is considered (confirming a report in the October issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine), but officers conclude that the “significant further delay and cost” in progressing this option cannot be justified.

The overall outcome of the latest work is that the lay-by option is discounted and councillors are recommended to choose between the existing bus lane option and the “do nothing” (other than installing two new MetroBus stops) option. The “do nothing “optional also excludes the planned bus priority measures on the Gipsy Patch Lane Roundabout, as these cannot be implemented without the need to widen the exit lanes from the roundabout on Hatchet Road and impact on Mead Park.

The only glimmer of hope for the anti-bus lane campaigners would now seem to be the possibility that councillors might be tempted to ignore the technical advice and plump for the “do nothing” option in order to save around £1.8 million, which could be used to cover potential overspends in other sections of the CPME scheme.

The only support to be found for this approach in the officer report comes from the council’s senior accountant, who suggest that, in the light of cost increases on the current MetroBus project, scrapping the bus lane “reflects a prudent approach” that would allow savings to be held in reserve to cover any potential overspends on CPME.

Surprisingly, given the history of the bus lane controversy, it would seem that the accountant’s opinion might actually reflect the current views of the councillors who will make the decision on 4th December. A press release put out by the Conservative group on SGC following publication of the officer report talks of a “change of policy” towards the CPME scheme, adding that it is “imperative that the project stays within budget”.

Without giving a full explanation, the press release suggests that delays outside of the council’s control in relation to the construction of the new railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane could lead to additional costs “upwards of six figures”, which would need to be met by savings elsewhere.

Council leader Matthew Riddle is quoted as saying:

“There is now greater financial risk on the CPME project, and now is a good time to take stock and decide what the best way is to keep it on budget. I’m not prepared to allow this project to overspend and the Cabinet will be carefully considering both of the options that are presented to the meeting on 4th December.”

More information and related links:

Image: Indicative artist’s impression of proposals on Hatchet Road (looking north).

Photo of campaigners opposed to a new bus lane on Hatchet Road, Stoke Gifford, gathering petition signatures at the Willow Brook Centre.

Photo: Campaigners opposed to a new bus lane on Hatchet Road gather petition signatures at the Willow Brook Centre, Bradley Stoke in April 2017.

This article originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on pages 8 & 9). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.

UPDATE (4th December 2017)

Decision at today’s SGC Cabinet meeting: Hatchet Road bus lane SCRAPPED by a majority vote.

How councillors voted on the proposal to cancel the proposed southbound bus lane on Hatchet Road and hold cost savings in reserve to cover potential overspend on the wider CPME project:

  • Cllr Heather Goddard AGAINST
  • Cllr John Goddard FOR
  • Cllr Colin Hunt AGAINST
  • Cllr Matthew Riddle FOR
  • Cllr Jon Hunt FOR
  • Cllr Toby Savage ABSTAIN
  • Cllr Ben Stokes FOR

Press release issued by the Conservative group on SGC

Conservatives unveil efficiency savings on MetroBus extension

On Monday 4th December, South Gloucestershire Council Conservatives agreed a change of policy on the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME).

As the main MetroBus programme has overspent, with South Gloucestershire Council liable to find £10m at present, it is imperative that the CPME project stays within budget.

Currently there are delays in planned railway maintenance, and as the extensive works required to widen the road and cycle/way under the railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane need a lengthy track closure, these can only be done over either the Easter or Christmas holidays. Any delays will cost upwards of six-figures, which would require the Council to make savings elsewhere to meet.

With that in mind, the Cabinet was presented with two recommended ways forward to continue the project. The first option the Cabinet considered was to continue with the project as planned, but to shoulder the additional financial risk that has arisen. The second option was to cancel the proposed southbound bus lane on Hatchet Road in Stoke Gifford, with any savings made from doing this to be held in reserve to meet any potential overspend on the wider CPME project.

Speaking of the decision, Council Leader Cllr Matthew Riddle said: “When the facts change it is important to stop and take stock. With this new risk arising with the bridge works on Gipsy Patch Lane it’s important to be clear that we are responsible with taxpayer’s money and where a risk of overspend arises we should make plans to avoid overspend. We back the extension to MetroBus, but it has to be within budget as far as we can make it.”

Local councillors for Stoke Gifford Cllrs Brian Allinson, Ernie Brown and Keith Cranney said: “We have long campaigned to see the cancellation of this bus lane and we are pleased to see it not go ahead.”

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