Park Street could close to cars under new transport vision announced by city mayor

The mayor has also reaffirmed his commitment to a £4billion mass transit system including an underground

<p>Bristol mayor Marvin Rees delivering his annual State of the City address at Wills Memorial Building </p>

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees delivering his annual State of the City address at Wills Memorial Building

Closing Park Street to cars and offering free bus tickets and free electric bike loans are among radical proposals for the future of Bristol’s transport system, Marvin Rees has announced.

In his annual State of the City address on Wednesday evening (October 20), the mayor reaffirmed his commitment to a £4billion mass transit system including an underground, as he outlined the scale of the challenges facing the city.

Mr Rees said the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic would be with us for generations while the poorest and most marginalised residents would be hit hardest again if we don’t face up to the urgent need to tackle climate change.

The bulk of his speech at the Wills Memorial Building highlighted achievements to date and how the city is becoming fairer and more inclusive under his leadership, but on transport he revealed a number of new policies.

The mayor said: “On transport, our flagship policy remains the mass transit system including the underground.

“All routes have been identified linking the north, east, south, and airport to the city centre.

“It will integrate buses and trains and include new stations, to form a transformative, low-carbon transport system.

“We are about to launch a consultation on the introduction of bus prioritisation for the Wells Road, to the city centre, over the Downs and the whole length of the A4018.

“We will ask you to comment on proposals to remove parking that causes congestion on key routes and the closure of Park Street to private cars.

“This has the potential to reinvent public realm up to the Triangle and remove rat-runs from the Downs.”

Mr Rees said Bristol City Council had submitted the full business case for the Clean Air Zone, which would come into force next year, and was negotiating a package of support with the Government.

This included £2million for clean buses, £720,000 for a new cycle scheme through Old Market, free electric bike loans and cycle training, free bus tickets, discounts on car club membership, support to buy electric cars and financial support for businesses and residents to upgrade polluting vehicles.

“We estimate the CAZ will reduce traffic travelling into the city centre by approximately

2,000 vehicles per day, while delivering protections for lower paid workers, hospital patients and visitors, and blue badge holders,” he said.

“Over half a century ago, Bristol lost its trams and, 20 years ago, lost out on an opportunity for ‘supertrams’.

“This was down to poor leadership, impenetrable council structures, and regional squabbles.

“We have the opportunity today to get beyond these historical failures and deliver something transformative.

“We need government funding and we must ensure the West of England Combined Authority unlocks the investment Bristol and the city region needs. We need substance, not soundbites.”

Mr Rees said the local authority faced a massive £42million shortfall on social care.

He said: “We’ve been tackling the crisis that is local government finance.

“The real costs of Covid and over a decade of austerity mean that the city again faces the challenge of an under-funded council budget.

“We are working through the numbers but, as of today, we have a potential shortfall of £42million, that may lead to more difficult decisions for the city.”

The mayor said the coronavirus pandemic had “humbled us and warned us – it has given us a taste of a natural world reasserting its authority”.

He said: “In the modern era we have believed that we have the ability to control things, that whatever the crisis, ‘someone somewhere’ could solve it.

“But we have tasted living in a world in which no one, nowhere could make a decision to end the crisis.

“We now need to apply that experience of loss of control to the climate emergency.

“If we pass the tipping point, there will be no hope for recovery.”