December 2016 newsletter

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13 December 2016

My latest newsletter, published on Friday, focuses on the numerous transport issues facing east Bristol.

Since then, you will likely have heard about delays on Bristol Hill due to the sink-hole caused by a burst water main. I would like to highlight and praise the community spirit shown in Brislington, as people rallied to help those who lost their water supply over the weekend.

Temporary two-way traffic lights will be in place until works are completed – hopefully as soon as possible this week.

St Anne’s Park station
As we all know, Bristol suffers some of the worst congestion in the country. We need to improve and diversify our transport network to get cars off the road – to improve Bristol’s air quality, and improve traffic flow for buses and those who do need to drive.

Located on the line between Bristol, Bath and London, St. Anne’s Park station – closed back in 1970 – would provide a faster way into the city centre for many people in south east Bristol to get to work, school, and enjoy culture. This direct link to Bristol Temple Meads would also make it much easier for residents of St Anne’s and Brislington to get to other parts of the country, and to the rest of the world via Flyer services from Temple Meads to Bristol airport.

I have been working hard with local residents, Councillors Harriet Bradley and Mike Langley, and the Mayor to make the case for St Anne’s Park station to be re-opened. Bristol City Council recently announced that a feasibility study will take place next year which will include a high-level look at our suburban railways, including St. Anne’s Park station. I am disappointed to learn that this will now have to be delayed, due to financial pressures at the Council.

You might have seen us recently in St. Anne’s and Brislington collecting signatures for our petition (pictured top left) – and this may be why you are receiving this e-mail – but, if not, you may wish to show your support by signing online, here. It also has the support of over 1,000 signatures on paper too. Helping this petition reach the 3,500 required for a debate at Full Council is now even more important given the delay to the feasibility study.

You may also wish to contribute to the associated consultation, linked to the West of England’s Joint Spatial Plan and Joint Transport Study for the region, here before it closes on 19 December. In my response, I have called for a re-opened St Anne’s Park station to be part of the Bath to Bristol corridor, and would encourage everyone to do so too.

I also recently raised the importance of reopening St Anne’s Park station in Parliament. During the Westminster Hall debate on 22 November, I stood up for suburban rail since intra-city, as well as inter-city, train services represent such an important part of the transport system which we so urgently need.

You can read or watch, from 17:12:18, my speech online.

Great Western Railway electrification
Many of you have been in touch since the announced delay to the modernisation and electrification of the Great Western Railway (GWR) between Bristol and London.

I share your disappointment and frustration, given that Bristolians have been suffering for many months with traffic jams caused by the essential work on bridges to prepare them for electrification. I understand from Network Rail that Easton Road is due to reopen by the end of this month. Their latest newsletter, covering the whole of Bristol, can be found here.

I have questioned the Secretary of State for Transport in the House of Commons, and he conceded that the National Audit Office was correct to characterise this project as a ‘case study in how not to manage a major programme’. The Hansard record of this exchange can be found here. The Public Accounts Committee is due to scrutinise the NAO’s report soon, and I look forward to seeing its conclusions.

I also had the opportunity to speak, albeit only briefly, in the Westminster Hall debate on electrification, where I highlighted that epic mismanagement by Network Rail has cost the taxpayer £330 million – more than the annual day-to-day budget of Bristol City Council.

The Rail Minister was still unable to give an answer as to where the eight million additional passengers forecast to use the GWR by 2018-19 will be put - given this line is already one of the most overcrowded in the country. You can read or watch, from 17:12:18, my speech online.

Rest assured, I will continue to press the Government on this issue and hope that the voices of Bristolians – and representations made by the city’s MPs and our Mayor – are not ignored.

Works on the M32

I have also recently met with Highways England, where they flagged up with me the need for essential work on the Eastville Viaduct and the state of the central reservation barriers.

The former will likely cause significant disruption for motorists, as traffic will need to come off and back on again at Junction 2, making already busy Muller Road roundabout even busier. I am waiting to hear more from Highways England when their plans are further advanced, but I have been assured the closure will not happen until after the MetroBus works have been completed.

I took the opportunity at this meeting to ask Highways England to install desperately needed soundproofing measures at the same time.

You will know that a 40 mile per hour limit has been in place on the M32 for a long time now, because the safety barriers are not fit for purpose. I understand that they will be repaired next year, which is long overdue, as far too many drivers currently ignore the speed limit.

From next Monday 12 December, I have been advised that there will be overnight closures on the M32, between 9pm and 6am, to remove the narrow lanes between Junction 1 and Junction 2. On Monday night, there will be a full closure northbound and a closure of Lane 1 southbound, while Tuesday sees only the northbound fully closed. Wednesday and Friday will see Lane 1 closed southbound, while Thursday will see Lane 1 closed northbound.

Hockey’s Lane
Many of us, in particular the elderly and disabled members of our community, or those with small children, will know of the near misses which result from illegal left-turns from the Fishponds Road into Hockey’s Lane. Nobody should have to risk serious injury – or worse – when crossing the road.

A legal left-turn needs to be reinstated, complete with a safe sequence of lights, so that all road users can feel, and be, safe. I have been putting pressure on the council for this to be done and I appreciate the level of frustration out there. We shouldn’t have to wait for a serious accident before the Council acts. In the meantime, and as always, I would urge all drivers to observe the signage and for pedestrians to exercise caution when crossing at this junction.

I have highlighted this issue, both with Cllr Mark Bradshaw, the Transport Cabinet member, and Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, and am also in contact with Avon and Somerset Police – who are responsible for enforcement of the ban on left-turns.

Buses Services Bill

I attended We Own It’s recent reception in Parliament along with Bristol South’s Labour MP, Karin Smyth. We Own It is currently campaigning for all local authorities, regardless of whether they have a Metro Mayor or not, to be able to create their own bus companies.

As you may have heard, the Lords defeated the Government multiple times on this Bill – including on this issue (Clause 21).

The West of England will of course elect a Metro Mayor in May 2017, but our Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees, has been vocal about exploring this possibility in the City of Bristol too.

My Labour colleagues in the House of Lords - where the Bill recently had its Third Reading - have been standing up for both passengers and local authorities in recent weeks and months. Labour’s Lord Kennedy has written a blog about the Bill’s progress, which may be of interest.

I will continue the good work of my colleagues to push for local authorities to be able to set up bus companies and, hopefully, replicate the quality of services from municipal providers such as those in Edinburgh, Reading, and, of course, London.

Roads in Stockwood
Residents of Stockwood, and Bristol City Council Alderwoman Jenny Smith, have been campaigning hard in recent weeks for a pedestrian crossing on Stockwood Lane. This residential street, with two schools and Abbeywood Tots Day Nursery nearby, is being used as a rat-run by some motorists, and the 20 mph speed limit is often ignored.

Recently, I joined Jenny and others to help collect signatures from local people in support of installing a crossing to make the road safer. We also discussed with residents what else could be done to control traffic and reduce the risk of accidents.

Scotland Lane remains a matter of utmost concern and I am continuing to press the Council to ensure that essential works are undertaken on Scotland Lane, which is regularly closed due to flooding, so that it can remain open. I hope to meet with officers and councillors soon to discuss this further.

Hungerford Road
I am concerned that Hungerford Road, near Oasis Academy, in Brislington is also being used as a rat-run by some motorists. Local residents, hosted by Councillor Harriet Bradley, met with Council Traffic Officers at the Hungerford Community Centre over the summer to discuss potential measures including traffic lights, one-way systems, greater policing, and speed-bumps. I also attended this meeting, and I will continue to chase the council and support constituents wherever possible.

I raised the associated issue of air quality with Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, when we met last week, and will be working with him and the British Lung Foundation to tackle what represents a major public health hazard to many Bristolians – especially those with breathing problems, children with asthma and the elderly.

Roadworks in St Anne’s
As well as the works planned for the bridge over the Feeder, I am concerned at the impact of upcoming works on the New Brislington Bridge.

The proposed closure of this bridge, scheduled for 3 January, has been delayed already due to poor consultation and planning. I realise that Whitby Road gets very congested during rush hours, exacerbated by parked cars on both sides, and traffic issues there may well make the impact of these works even worse.

I have contacted the Highways Department at the Council to ask them to do everything possible to reduce congestion in this area – including considering double-yellow lines on the road to effectively widen it, or better signage to notify vehicles of the height restriction imposed by the bridge so that lorries find an alternative route and do not need to further hold up traffic by turning around.

I have also been making enquiries about the footbridge in Langton Court Road, heading towards St Anne’s school, which has been out of use for almost two years. It turns out that the footbridge and the carriageway bridge are owned by the Council and Network Rail, respectively, so legal complications have stalled the repairs for some time. Unfortunately the footbridge has now been deemed to be beyond economical repair and is due to be demolished in June 2017. A new permanent pedestrian crossing will then be installed. I will try to keep local residents and the schools informed, as and when I find out more.

After months of inconvenience due to construction works in Stapleton – and as a result of the sterling work of the Stoke Lane Action Group and Frome Vale Cllr. Nicola Bowden-Jones – I am glad that local residents’ voices are now being heard.

After consultation meetings with the local community, the one-way closure on Stoke Lane will now be reversed – on a trial basis, beginning on 12 December – so that traffic flows north instead of south until the scheduled reopening of the road to two-way traffic in February. These arrangements will be reviewed by a further series of public meetings in the New Year and I encourage everyone to attend to ensure that local views are taken into account.

First Bus
Since municipally-run bus services remain distant on the horizon, I have also – as always – been pressing providers to ensure that they adequately cater for every community in east Bristol. I am concerned by recent and upcoming changes to services like the 2, 18, and 36 and am awaiting a reply from James Freeman, the Managing Director of First Bus.

I am disappointed that First Bus have decided to alter their number 18 service due to continuing MetroBus works in Stapleton. I have made clear to Mr Freeman that these changes will isolate and inconvenience people – particularly the elderly – who depend on public transport links to Downend and Southmead.

I have also made representations regarding the route change of the number 36, due to works which are planned for the bridge over the Feeder at the Netham. Current plans indicate the service will be unable to turn left towards St Anne’s but instead need to turn right before embarking on a much more convoluted route.

Constituents living on Stockwood Lane have been in touch about the number 2, which turns off before it reaches them. I have asked First Bus to consider potential alternative provision which could better cater for the many elderly residents in the area. There have been requests for this bus to alternate to take different routes in the area and I hope that they are seriously assessed.

While we should welcome the new, greener buses serving the 48/48a/49 routes, I have also raised concerns that these vehicles might represent a risk to the showcase bus route through Fishponds and Stapleton. I will update constituents as soon as I receive a reply from First Bus.

General issues
Many people have been in touch, from right across east Bristol, about car dealers parking their cars out on the roads and causing an obstruction. I know that improper parking is causing problems more generally too and can be a source of tension even in the mostly tightly-knit communities.

The best way forward in these instances is to speak to the person who owns the vehicle and politely explain the problem, though where there is a persistent problem I am happy to offer assistance where appropriate – for instance where community groups want to see better enforcement, or are seeking new traffic management schemes.

As ever, please let me know if there are any local issues or personal difficulties with which I could be of assistance. I hold regular surgeries in the constituency to talk to people about their problems, so please get in touch if you would like to attend one of these in the near future by emailing, or phoning 0117 939 9901.


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