Let’s look at East of Bath traffic again.

Remember this? Reducing the amount of traffic coming into Bath from the Eastern side of the city the cost the previous council administration its leadership and a previous MP his seat.

A Park and Ride on the Bathampton Meadows was not what the majority of people wanted and they showed it by voting in a Lib-Dem ruling group instead.

One which has now decided to turn its attention to that traffic-clogged side of the city, but has come up with a different way of trying to deal with it.

B&NES has just released a study the administration commissioned into something they call ‘Link and Ride.’

The report by Atkins considered the feasibility of providing a rapid transport service serving communities along the A4 between Chippenham and Bath.

Rather than locate a large P&R site on Green Belt land, a Link and Ride scheme would utilize Brown Field sites and some existing car parks to create much smaller interchange hubs for cyclists and pedestrians as well as a limited number of car parking spaces.

A number of options were tested all of which showed that car trips into Bath along the A4 could be reduced by such a scheme. The study showed that the greatest impact was produced through a combination of measures including lower fares, a high-frequency service and bus priority measures. It also concluded that in terms of affordability it was preferable to build on the existing X31 service rather than to have a new dedicated bus route.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the study confirmed that significant levels of carbon saving could be made if the scheme was served by zero-emission buses. The best alternative to this in terms of carbon saving was to reduce fares in order to increase bus patronage and ensure that buses are well utilised. This has the effect of reducing operating costs and supporting the viability of services at a time when the industry finds itself in difficulty.

Cllr Sarah Warren said, “this is the first time a detailed examination of a potential Link & Ride scheme has been undertaken, it provides a good platform to move forward to discuss the idea further with the West of England Combined Authority and with Wiltshire who would need to be part of such a scheme”.

She added that “the study has not yet considered the benefits to be gained by communities along the route of having a quick safe and reliable alternative to the car. I want to consider those residents who can walk and cycle to these sites as well as those who would drive there. As part of such a scheme, the A4 at Bathford could become part of a sustainable transport corridor, seeing big improvements to safety for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Also, sites could be used as safe drop-off points, perhaps for people with mobility problems or for children travelling to school, as well as hubs for our electric scooters. Once we understand who might use Link and Ride and the type of journeys they make we will be better able to consider the viability of such a scheme and its benefits”.

One of the options being considered is to set up a short-term trial using existing carparks that lie on the existing X31 service route as interchanges. This could involve a low set-up cost and would help identify the potential demand for such a scheme.

The Link and Ride model has some big supporters in the bus industry, and suggestions have come forward for other routes, such as Melksham to Bath or Bradford Upon Avon to Bath to support other rural communities.

This model of provision, first suggested by Liberal Democrat Councillors in Bath and North East Somerset, has now been adopted by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) through the proposed City Region Sustainable Transport Fund corridors on the A4 Bristol to Bath, A37 and A367.

As WECA is now the local Transport Authority, the report has been shared with them and we will be seeking to discuss next steps with the WECA Mayor, with Wiltshire County Council and with our local transport stakeholders including the Net Zero Stakeholder Group.

The privatised public transport system is no longer fit for purpose and is failing our residents. In the absence of leadership from government, we must explore every opportunity to secure as many bus services as we can. This report outlines ideas for boosting passenger numbers.