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Rapid Transit


The City Council has issued the following statement:

Bristol Supertram - POSITION STATEMENT

At its meeting on February 6th, the Cabinet agreed unanimously to consult with neighbouring unitary authorities, and consider the future of the tram project within a sub regional context, before deciding how to respond to the Secretary of State's requirement for further studies to support the business case for the LRT scheme. That policy remains in place - therefore the council has not formally reached a conclusion about its next step at this stage.

However, the situation has clearly developed since that Cabinet meeting. Firstly, there have been a number of indications from government sources, and statements made by Ministers and government representatives, that suggest support for the existing LRT proposal is unlikely to be forthcoming. In addition, the budget decision on March 2nd removes from balances the £1.5 million originally set aside for any further work on the project over the coming year. The three party group leaders are agreed that, under current circumstances, the existing proposal for LRT is unlikely to proceed.

A further report on the issue is expected to come to Cabinet at an early stage, probably in April, when Members will be asked to clarify their position.

The councilís approach to congestion charging remains unchanged. We have always said that it would not be introduced until substantial improvements in public transport are secured and this remains our position with or without the current LRT proposal.

This decision is likely to prove very short-sighted and leaves the Bristol Transport Plan with a hole in the middle. Other improvements - such as Showcase bus routes - will proceed but as these were planned anyway will do little to give the required improvements and increase in capacity required. Although the Greater Bristol Strategic Transport Study will consider as part of its remit a network of LRT lines, this study is planned to take 2 years and there is a danger that rights of way could be lost in the meantime which could make any future proposals more difficult and expensive. There is also the danger of being seduced by 'innovative' proposals which do not address the real problem, are untested and may just waste time and money without producing any real answer to Bristol's transport problems.

Proposed Route from Bristol Parkway, Filton then via Network Rail ROW to Temple Meads & City Centre
The Project
A Public/Private Partnership Project originally between the Local Authorities Comprising:-
Bristol City Council
South Gloucestershire Council

although the latter is now studying alternatives to serve north of Parkway Station.
The Private Sector involvement was called Citylink and comprised:-
Pell Frischmann  
Norwest Holst 
AEA Technology 
in Association with:-
Railtrack PLC
First Group 
and supported by:-
Sherwood & Co
Sumitomo Bank

The Objective

The proposed system will provide a fast & efficient public transport system at an affordable price which will encourage the transfer of car users to public transport so reducing congestion introducing sustainable environmental and social improvements and enhancing the economic competitiveness of the North Bristol corridor. The proposals form a key element in the integrated transport policy for the area.

Project Description

From the centre of Bristol the line will be a newly constructed "on street" tramway to a junction with the existing railway near Temple Meads station.

Between Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood (7km) the route will share Railtrack infrastructure using either existing or reinstated double track. It was intended that a new segregated track will carry the tramway to Almondsbury where it will terminate at a park & ride site adjacent to the motorway.

The route length was to be 16.7km with 16 stops. The full journey time was planned to be 30 minutes with a service interval of 6 minutes weekdays & 15 minutes on Sundays. The cost was estimated as being £105m. Current plans have the line truncated to Bristol Parkway station with a diversion via the University of Western England (UWE). The current estimated cost is nearer £200m.

Selected route from Temple Meads via Redcliff Way, City Centre to Broadmead. Alternative route via Baldwin street dropped.

The Programme

Submission to the Government under the Public/Private Partnership Project (PPPP) has taken place so the project is to the schedule below. 

Possible programme plan showing OBC submission late 1998, T&WA application early 2001 & approval late 2001 leading to operation in 2007
NOTE: The above graph has been amended to allow for slippage but is only supposition at this stage. It is not in any way official! It is hoped that the TWA application will take place in 2004 provided the Government gives the go-ahead. With the need to now go through a tendering process it means that completion before 2008/9 does not seem likely.
Latest News:
March 2004
At their budget meeting on Tuesday 2 March Bristol City Council passed a motion setting the Council Tax rise to 3.8% - this to be achieved by using the funds set aside for development of the tram scheme. This is likely to mean the end of the current proposals which leaves a hole in the centre of Bristol's Transport Plan and it is not clear what he future strategy is likely to be.
February 2004
Following a visit by Councillor/Officers to see the Minister the government has asked for further work to be carried out to justify the case for the tram. The Bristol Evening Post has now become very negative and advocates dropping the project. With pressure to reduce the amount of Council Tax increase the Labour and Conservative groups have broken away from the previously agreed increase to propose dropping the tram to give a lower increase. So far only the Liberal Democrats retain original proposal.
December 2003
Very little progress seems to have been made this year, partly due to Bristol being left with a hung council after the May elections. Because of the changes made, due to the withdrawal of South Gloucestershire and the subsequent route changes to terminate at Parkway and run via UWE, the business case has had to be resubmitted to Government and the outcome is still awaited.
23 December 2002
Independent Studies Back Bristol's Plan for Tram to Parkway

The study by transport experts WS Atkins, which was funded by both councils, confirms that the plan for a tram line to Parkway is feasible and offers real benefits - but rejects South Gloucestershire's favoured scheme to Cribbs Causeway.

It shows that the Cribbs Causeway option was never realistic because:

While Bristol still believes that the original scheme, to Almondsbury, was the best option and it is understood that South Gloucestershire regretfully accepts that their Cribbs Causeway proposals is not possible it is unlikely that the original proposal could be resurrected as without further delay.
18 July 2002

Some good news at last with both Councils having come to an agreement on the way forward and a notice of intended agreement was issued by Bristol as follows:

Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council are committed to
working together and to supporting each other in the development of an
integrated transport system.  There have been positive discussions
throughout and unfair press criticism.

Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council will work together
on the development of LRT for the North of Bristol of both a
City Centre / Parkway and a City Centre / Cribbs Causeway line.
What is viable is not yet known and depends upon the results of technical
and economic model evaluations.

Bristol City Council will give priority to the testing of both these
proposals through the WS Atkins Model in time for the Local Transport Plan
(LTP) Settlement Letter.

The two submissions (if ready) will be submitted to Government to enable
time for them to consider both submissions in advance of the LTP Settlement

If both schemes secure positive evaluation then both councils will use their
best endeavours to agree a single scheme.

If the City Centre / Parkway option is preferred then Bristol City Council
will work in support of South Gloucestershire Council on any viable future
This has now been agreed by both Councils.

It remains to be seen whether S. Gloucestershire can do the required work to meet the timescale but if it could it could well achieve its aim of getting to Cribbs Causeway in the first phase, albeit having caused a delay of a year to the scheme. If it does not meet the timescale it would mean that, providing the Bristol Section is approved, it will not only have delayed the project but will have to wait even longer for any major benefit to Bradley Stoke or Cribbs.

It is regrettable that the full line to at least just short of Almondsbury could not be progressed jointly but with the suggested alternative route to Cribbs Causeway missing out Bradley Stoke having been raised (but now presumably discarded) it would not have been possible for Bristol to have included this section on its own.

Note: The map has been updated to indicate the division of responsibility as far as is know and the possible alternative routes.

27 June 2002

Towards the end of 2001 a number of factors came together to add further complications to the implementation of the scheme. Rather belatedly the out of town shopping centre 'The Mall' at Cribbs Causeway decided that it would be a good idea if the trams were extended to its site, while technical difficulties in getting across the M5 to the proposed P+R site were coming to light. To overcome this a tunnel was suggested to access the P+R site but South Gloucestershire indicated it would prefer an extension to a P+R site at Cribbs Causeway.

South Gloucestershire Council set up a scrutiny committee which sat through December and January to take evidence on the various options. Bristol CC argued that any change of route was likely to cause further delays with the possibility that the Government might withdraw its funding offer if any material change was made to the route and thus the business case. Bristol did however offer to include an extension to the Mall as Phase 1a along with an extension further into Broadmead at the Bristol end (subject to studies into the effect on Broadmead trade).

There was some opposition to the P+R site on grounds of loss of green belt (although the site is already a council depot) and concerns about the effects the junctions for the P+R would have on through traffic. Although there was some opposition to the general idea of light rail the majority was supportive with the regional agencies and chambers of trade supporting the status quo but 'The Mall' which was offering land for a P+R site and the University of Western England supporting changes of route. UWE in particular wanted a diversion between Filton and Parkway to serve the university and also a possible future hospital. Both these changes would make bring benefits for the economic case for the line so the real argument was on the grounds of timing.

The technical problems of the motorway crossing come about as the height of the roadway under the M5 is substandard and this combined with the closeness of the sliproads would mean that under British regulations the wire gradient would be such that the trams would have to cross the junction at walking pace to minimise wear on the wire/pantograph. Studies showed that despite this other improvements to the junction would mean that effect on the current traffic flow would be minimal but this did not convince the critics.

Although a P+R site at Cribbs was on offer it was rather out of the way for many of its potential users requiring a 2-3mile diversion down the M5 only to come the same distance back before heading towards Bristol so a P+R site near to the motorway junction would still be a requirement if the line was to achieve its traffic objectives. Towards the end of the Inquiry it did appear that there could be a possible site on the Bristol side of the motorway which would have the benefit of avoiding the motorway crossing and leaving the terminus where it could be extended to Cribbs later. It did seem for a time that it would be possible for a compromise solution which would have avoided any further major delays to be achieved but in the end South Gloucestershire decided (with a minority report from one party opposing the whole scheme) that it wished to go to the Mall in the initial phase, subject to studies into its practicality.

Since then South Gloucestershire has confirmed its intention while Bristol as a result has proposed to go it alone with a shortened line terminating at Bristol Parkway station but including the UWE diversion. As both Parkway and UWE are located in South Gloucestershire it would appear that there are still plenty off pitfalls to be faced. South Gloucestershire has said that a survey on the Parkway option would have to be carried out causing further delay while work on The Mall extension was nearly complete, but is difficult to take that seriously as the UWE option would appear to be the easier of the two.

However desirable both of the proposed changes may be in themselves, by being deflected away from the prime motive of getting the initial line underway, it could well be that nothing ever gets built at all and one can only hope that the two councils can settle their differences if any real progress is to be made with the project.

9 July 2001

The Bristol Citylink consortium formed to bring the Bristol light rail proposals to fruition has been dismissed. This is apparently due to Government legal advice that with the revised funding arrangements the scheme must go back out to tender. Members of the consortium would be free to submit tenders.

The consortium had intended to provide 60% private sector funding, which would have been the highest so far achieved, but this is now likely to be reduced to 20%.

Although Bristol City Council's transport executive Labour Councillor Helen Holland has indicated that it wasn't a hitch for the project, and said that "on the contrary things are moving on", it is likely that the re tendering precess will add a further delay to the already extended timescale of the project.

29 March 2001


The press release from Bristol City Council states:
The Government announced this morning that the scheme has passed the economic and technical criteria set by Treasury and DETR and should receive funding. The money will come from the allocation identified for Rapid Transit schemes in the Governmentís 10-year plan.

This decision will allow the two councils to apply later this year for powers to build the scheme under the Transport and Works Act following agreement with Railtrack and resolving outstanding matters with the Highways Agency in connection with Junction 16 of the M5.

The £194m supertram, which the Government is now committed to substantially fund, is a key element of the Bristol Local Transport Plan, which was produced following widespread consultation and support from the public and business community. The plan, which received high praise from the Government and led to the city being recently awarded Centre of Excellence for Integrated Transport, sets out a five-year strategy to revolutionise transport provision in the city.

Councillor Helen Holland, Executive Member for Environment, Transport & Leisure for Bristol said "Todayís announcement represents a giant step forward in the realisation of Bristolís tram scheme. The tram is a key element in our strategy for getting Bristol to work. We now have government backing to take our exciting plans forward to the next stage and we're right on track for seeing trams in Bristol in 2005."

The press release also refers to possible extensions:
The Local Transport Plan identifies further extensions for evaluation after line one. These include :

A DETR press release says:
The Government has now considered the value for money appraisal for the scheme as part of its consideration of the Local Transport Plan for the area . Some further work is still needed included on some aspect of the detailed plans for the scheme which require the agreement of the Highways Agency and Railtrack. This work needs to be completed before the Government gives its view. However the Government has accepted that if this work confirms its current understanding of the proposals the scheme would pass the necessary appraisal tests. The promoters would then be able to apply for powers to build the project under the Transport and Works Act (TWA).

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said "Local people will welcome the fact that we have moved a long way forward on the scheme. I applaud the vision shown by Bristol and South Gloucestershire in developing the project. In our 10-Year Plan for Transport we said that accessible, integrated and environmentally sound light rail systems could revolutionise public transport in towns and cities. We are now looking at the authorities to work closely with the Highways Authority, Railtrack and others to take development of the project forward as quickly as possible to the point at which we can give a firm view on the scheme. If we are satisfied the authorities could then apply for the necessary powers to build the line."

27 October 2000

Bristol Electric Railbus Closes!
Bristol city Council has been unable so far to obtain an agreement with Rail Property Ltd for the use of the stretch of track to the Create Centre in the Cumberland Basin. Without this extension operation of the system is not economic and therefore operator Bristol Electric Railbus (BER) is suspending the service as from today. It is to be hoped that agreement can still be achieved to permit a resumption of service in the future.

8 September 2000

Supertram top of Poll!
The results of a poll conducted by the City Council has shown that the proposed tram system is top of the City's wish list. With 32% of the vote it recieved over twice the amount than the second item - a new arena, with P&R, sports stadium and new swimming pool in 3rd, 4th and 5th places.

March 2000

Prior to the announcement of the Local Transport Plan settlement there had been a general expectation that there would be a positive announcement about the Bristol light rail scheme along with inclusion in a list of cities chosen to progress with Road Pricing. When the announcement came that Bristol had been included in the 'Fast Track' for the introduction of tolls with GBP 2.25 million allocated to carry out studies, the statement that decisions on the LRT were deferred was taken by many as a severe blow the tram scheme. Bristol City Council insists that the 'Fast Track' for road tolls is in fact a boost for the tram plan and will make it easier to attract further private funding. A council spokesman is reported as saying: "For the first time in ten years the Government has said it approves, in principle, our Supertram scheme. We will have to see next year if they are willing to help fill our funding gap from various new transport funds." The council has pledged "trams before tolls" and if planning permission is agreed next spring, trams could be running by 2004 providing the Government approves the funding.

18 December 1999

With a more positive message coming from DETR agents have been appointed to carry forward the task of preparing the Transport & Works Act requirements. These are:

8 December 1999
Bristol City Council invests in Railbus - A sum of £25 000 has been awarded to Bristol Electric Railbus to be used in part to survey the track prior to possible extension of the service to the Create Centre and beyond.

Consultations have taken place concerning the location of the Park & Ride at the Northern Terminal and also on the alternative routes in the City Centre. See the news page and local comment pages on my home site for further details.

Bristol City Council has confirmed the route as Redcliffe Way / The Grove / Prince Street (Red line on map above). The terminus will now be a loop via Nelson Street / Union Street / Rupert Street and Bridewell Street rather than a stub Terminus. South Gloucestershire CC's decision on the Northern end is still awaited.

Response to Bristol City Council's questionnaire on the Local Transport Plan showed that 85.4% believed that light rail would be effective/very effective and received 89.1% support while a similar study by the Citizens Panel the figures were 85.6 & 90.4 respectively while a survey of business managers indicated 80% support.

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