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Special report: What the South Bristol Link road will do for business

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Written by: Gavin Thompson | Posted 31 March 2016 6:00

Special report: What the South Bristol Link road will do for business

As work on the South Bristol Link accelerates Gavin Thompson reports on what the benefits of the new road will be for business and the city

A MAJOR new road is being built to help South Bristol achieve its potential. The link road, which opens early in 2017, will unlock 3,100 jobs over the next 13 years, according to a study by Atkins.

The road will lead from a new junction off the A370, the main road from Weston-super-Mare into the city, and connect to the A38 at Hartcliffe.

The road is costing £45 million to build, although this includes a Metrobus express route along it as well as cycle and footpaths.

Business has been lobbying for the project for years, according to James Durie, chief executive of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce and Initiative.

“It is no secret that the Bristol city region transport system needs major improvement to address growing and unacceptable levels of congestion,” he said.

“Our members consistently tell us that this is a major issue and as a business community we have worked for many years to help make the case and secure investment from government.

“The South Bristol link scheme, part of the wider £200-million MetroBus investment in the city, is a very important part of this. We have supported the scheme for a long time, both during its conception and through the planning process, so are delighted that work is well under way.”

Work underway on the South Bristol link junction from the A370

Pictured: Work underway on the South Bristol link junction from the A370

The road and bus route will mean better access to South Bristol. That could tempt more businesses to set up in the area, which has suffered as a poor relation to the city’s northern fringe and its easy access to the ring road and M4 and M5 motorways. In the past South Bristol has had a large workforce but few jobs.

One of South Bristol’s biggest existing employers is Computershare. The financial information firm operates from a large HQ in Bedminster Down. It tackles the connection problems by putting on special buses to bring in workers from around Bristol and encourages car sharing and cycling.

Chief executive Naz Sarkar said: “As a business good transport is crucial to our ability to attract staff, meet clients and run our offices.

“Better walking and cycling routes also mean that our local environment improves – and our colleagues have healthier, cheaper travel options for their commute.

“We’re very proud to be part of the community in South Bristol and very lucky to be based where we are, but there’s no doubt that improved transport links will benefit our business, meaning we can contribute even more to the local economy.

“We’re pleased therefore that greater attention is being paid to transport in Bristol and the surrounding area. The Bristol South Link represents one part of the jigsaw of improvements that Bristol needs to make it easier for people to get around.”

The strength of business feeling is shown in the funding for the new road. The majority, £27.6 million, is coming from the Department for Transport. Bristol City Council is contributing £8.4 million, North Somerset Council chips in £5.3 million. And Bristol Airport considers improving the transport links so vital it is investing £3.2 million.

The airport’s Flyer bus service carried 770,265 passengers last year and the aim is to increase the proportion of airport passengers arriving by public transport from 10 to 15 per cent in future. That will only happen with a fast and reliable service, which should be made possible by the service taking advantage of the new road’s bus lanes.

Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair, who is also interim chair of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “In 2014 we were the most punctual airport in the world, last year still top in the UK. So it’s really important passengers have reliable access to the airport. The same goes for staff.”

Robert Sinclair

Pictured: Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair wants more road upgrades

Robert said the airport had “significantly grown” its catchment area in recent years with increasing numbers of passengers from across the South West and South Wales, but in order to keep growing and reach its target of 10 million passengers annually, access from the motorway network needed to be improved.

That’s just one piece of the jigsaw for the airport, which is pushing for more investment in roads such as creating a dual carriageway on the A38.

“We are the only airport of our size served by a single carriageway,” said Robert. “And quite a few have rail or light rail access too.

“The authorities really need to grasp the fundamental importance of international connectivity that we provide. We are now handling more than 7 million passengers per annum, we serve 117 routes to 30 countries and 17 capital cities. That helps fuel the economy.”

Robert isn’t the only person who wants investment in the roads to continue.

Paul Williams, head of agency at the property agency Bruton Knowle’s Bristol office, wants to see the South Bristol Link extended to the key Hicks Gate roundabout junction of the Avon Ring Road, to join up the ring road and open up effective traffic routes in both directions.

“The new route will undoubtedly improve the route choice for drivers travelling from South Bristol out toward the A38 and A361,” he said.

“The same cannot be said for traffic heading the other way, and this is potentially going to cause new
bottlenecks to form as traffic seeking to circulate in an easterly direction literally reaches the end of the road.”

“Traffic heading east on the new link will arrive at the Cater Road roundabout and proceed on to the bypass which leads to the Hartcliffe Way roundabout.

“This has four possible exits – to Ashton, Knowle and Hengrove, Whitchurch and Hartcliffe.

“The main trunk route along Airport Road eventually links to the
A4 at Brislington, generally regarded as the worst junction in South Bristol.

“We believe the city will have to bite the bullet and extend the route all the way out to the Hicks Gate roundabout – effectively completing the southern section of the Avon Ring Road.”

The Bruton Knowles’ team have been outspoken in calling for improved infrastructure in South Bristol.

Paul said: “As it stands, the new route will provide a useful link for the fast developing business communities in South Bristol, such as the Bottle Yard Studios and city council-sponsored Filwood Green Business Park.

“But drivers using the new Link Road to travel east will still have to negotiate the already congested Hartcliffe Way, Whitchurch Lane and Wells Road junctions before they get out onto the A37 or the A4 at Brislington.

“The right turn from Airport Road/West Town Lane onto the A4 Bath Road is one of our most problematical junctions with substantial traffic queues building up in every direction at peak times.

“We believe the junction should be enlarged to provide direct access on to Hicks Gate and the Ring Road, to give business and commuters an effective two-way link.

“The lack of infrastructure to rival the northern districts has held South Bristol back for decades – possibly since the last war. Although the new link road is a big step forward and will provide a vastly improved route for commuters, it still lacks the final piece in the puzzle to accelerate connectivity to the eastward facing routes.”

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