Plan for bus lane and banned turns changed after criticism

Plans for a 24-hour bus lane and banned turns on a key road running through south Bristol have been changed after criticism.

A huge range of works is planned  next year along the A37 Wells Road in a bid to make buses more punctual and reliable, but with new restrictions for other motorists.

Bristol City Council is planning to install new 12-hour bus lanes along parts of Wells Road. These were initially going to be in place 24 hours a day, until local residents pointed out that no buses run along that road overnight. These will now instead be in force from 7am to 7pm.

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Several junctions along Wells Road will also see major changes, including the junction with West Town Lane which runs into Brislington. This would have seen drivers banned from turning left onto Wells Road, although this part of the plan has now been scrapped.

Writing on the mayor’s blog[1], Labour councillor for Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston Don Alexander, cabinet member for transport, said: “As a growing city, we need to transform the way we travel in Bristol and make more sustainable forms of transport, including active travel and public transport, more accessible and reliable.

“For this to happen, we need a public transport service that is fit for purpose. Alongside regional plans to improve rail travel and our long-term vision for a mass transit system with underground sections, we are working on changes to key bus routes through Bristol to improve the experience for users.

“We know that people travelling by bus look for a quick and reliable service, and that this is a major factor when deciding how to do the daily commute to work or study. That’s why we have been asking for views on plans to improve a number of main bus routes, known as strategic corridors.”

Wells Road runs south from Temple Meads through Totterdown, Knowle, Hengrove and Stockwood, and is used by many bus services including the number 2 bus, which runs from Stockwood through many different parts of Bristol to Cribbs Causeway. Work on Wells Road forms part of wider plans to improve bus services across the whole of the number 2 route.

But the council has faced questions from local residents about its plans, with fears the changes could increase rat-running on nearby residential streets, as drivers seek to avoid the new restrictions. Several residents wrote to the council, ahead of a cabinet meeting on May 2, to raise their concerns.

Katie Bennett said: “The proposed alterations to the West Town Lane and Wells Road junction and the banning of left or right turns will result in Mowbray Road and Hazelbury Road becoming a rat run for drivers who want to avoid the junction. What consideration has been given to the inevitable increase in traffic, higher levels of emissions and likely reduction in pedestrian safety for the residents of Hazelbury Road and Mowbray Road?”

Wells Road into West Town Lane junction

Since a public consultation on the changes, the council has dropped the planned ban from drivers turning left from West Town Lane onto Wells Road. But plans for a banned right turn from Wells Road into West Town Lane will still be taken forward.

A council spokesman said: “In 2020, we asked people for their suggested improvements and then we consulted on our proposals in 2022. We listened to the feedback we received, and as a result we removed the proposed banned left turn from West Town Lane into Wells Road. The banned right turn from Wells Road into West Town Lane is still proposed to help with the overall efficiency of the junction.

“Feedback from the public consultation suggested that rat-running on Hazelbury Road and Mowbray Road is already an issue. Subject to feasibility and funding, there may be scope to consider traffic calming measures along these roads.”

Another issue is the planned bus lanes along Wells Road. The council initially suggested enforcing these 24 hours a day, despite no services running  overnight. Residents said this could lead to increased congestion with drivers moving more slowly through the remaining open lanes. But the council said it was necessary to build the infrastructure which could in future lead to much better bus services, with some running every five minutes.

Tyrone Pearce said: “24-hour bus lanes are not required — we don’t have buses serving the area 24/7 and certainly do not see this service improving as a result of the proposed changes. Creating more road bottlenecks will not be setting a good example of the need for the Clean Air Zone, with more idle cars waiting in even more traffic, for longer periods and needing to drive further long-winded distances to get to where they’re going.”

The council spokesman replied: “The West of England Combined Authority bus strategy sets out a vision for what the bus network could look like in future, including frequencies of five to six minutes on core urban routes.“New and upgraded bus priority measures are central to achieving that vision. Following the results of the public consultation, the hours of operation of the proposed bus lanes south of West Town Lane toward Gilda Parade has changed from 24 hours to 7am to 7pm.”

All photos: Betty Woolerton

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  1. ^ Writing on the mayor’s blog (