Transport: Connecting our region, accessing opportunity

Like many of you I grew up in the shadow of great monuments to innovation and connectivity, Brunel’s magnificent Clifton Suspension bridge, the grandeur of Temple Meads Station or the SS Great Britain. For me these windows into our regions past have been an inspiration to build upon and extend this great legacy, to ensure the West of England remains a byword for excellence in connectivity.

However, it is abundantly clear that the current status quo is not good enough. We are fortunate to live in a complex mosaic of communities, both rural and urban, however whilst we are blessed in many ways, there is one thing these communities lack; connectivity. That is why I will launch a thorough, ‘no holds barred’ investigation into the future of transport across the West of England so that we can start delivering the future we all need.

Having grown up in rural Gloucestershire I am aware of the problems many face in getting around our region. Travelling from Thornbury to somewhere like Midsomer Norton has become more of a hardship than simply crossing the border into Wales. This needs to change. We cannot get left behind, or fail to access opportunities because of outdated infrastructure. We need a modern transport network that connects communities and prioritises pragmatism, not party politics.

That is why, I am outlining a practical and simple plan that caters for the entirety of our rural/urban region:

I will introduce a digitally enabled and integrated transport network, meaning that for the first time all of us can cut through the confusion of bus times and rail timetables, putting your travel plans into your hands. Launching new ‘on-demand’ services will offer personalised transport for you, when you need it.

I commit to mix mode highway improvements, that ensure our rural and sub-rural communities are connected to the services and opportunities we all want.

Vehicles are not an issue we should be afraid of, human caused carbon, air pollution and congestion are the issues we must combat and therefore providing a public transport system that is preferable to personal vehicles and working to decarbonise will out to us a new greener, cleaner and connected world.

As part of the MetroWest rail network I will deliver at least six new railway stations, built in Avonmouth, Ashley Down, Charfield, Henbury, North Filton and Portishead; much needed improvements and increased services. This will bring ‘turn-up and go’ services to people across the West of England, bring 80,000 more individuals closer to the railway network and creating more than 1 million extra journeys, whilst cutting congestion and helping residents get to decent, well paid jobs. A Labour mayor could scrap this project, leaving thousands left behind.

It is vital that we begin to drive towards decarbonisation. I celebrate the trails of initiatives such as the Voi electric scooters as a mode of urban travel and I will deliver a network of electric bikes, complemented by a new and innovative docking system. Further investment in our neighbours, traffic flow, park and rides and cycling and walking paths will create every opportunity for us to leave our cars at home and secure a greener and cleaner future.

However, it is important that we take a holistic approach rooted in practical solutions. That is why as West of England Mayor I will not unduly penalise car owners but present a preferable mode of travel.

The Mayor of the West of England is the only person who is able to maintain a strategic overview of our whole region. To meet the needs of the whole region it is essential that we set a bold vision and deliver for our communities. Now is not the time to risk our recovery. Now is the time to secure our future progress.