Here comes the Metrobus - at last
Ken McCormick joins the VIPs on the maiden voyage of the long-awaited new service from Emersons Green
IT has cost £230 million and been 12 years in the making - now the first Metrobus has finally taken to the road.
The m3 route from Emersons Green to Bristol city centre uses a combination of main roads, bus lanes, bus-only routes and pre-paid tickets to promise a faster, more reliable service.
But will the new route be a better way to travel for people living in Downend, Staple Hill, Mangotsfield and Emersons Green? Downend Voice took a ride on the inaugural journey to see how it shapes up against the X48 - which will be stopped when the m3 starts scheduled services on May 29 - as well as the 48 and 49.
The maiden Metrobus voyage had the atmosphere of a school trip, as a group of invited politicians, business leaders and journalists travelled the route on one of the new £10 million fleet, with James Freeman, the managing director of operator First West of England, acting as host.
The buses themselves are brand new, comfortable, have USB ports on seat backs to charge your smartphone and speakers for stop announcements.
But the route is far more convenient for people living or working near the Avon Ring Road than for anyone living near the middle of Downend, for example.
Starting near Sainsbury’s at Emersons Green, it stops at Lyde Green Park & Ride, the Bristol & Bath Science Park, on the A4174 near the Beefeater and Willy Wicket pubs, then near the Hambrook traffic lights before crossing the M32 and heading towards UWE.
From there it stops at Stoke Park and Begbrook, before using the new bus-only interchange to join the M32 and stopping at Cabot Circus, Broadmead and the Centre.
The inaugural journey, made during light, mid-morning traffic, took 34 minutes from Emersons Green to the Centre - the same amount of time the X48 is timetabled to take between the same two places at the same time of day. It is a good 15 minutes quicker than the 48 and 49 from Emersons Green - but the journey times for the 48 from the Horseshoe and the 49 from Hill House Road are similar.
The leg from Hambrook to the M32 via UWE adds about nine minutes to the Metrobus journey. But stopping at the university will be key to the route’s success, as it will offer students a 15-minute journey to and from the Centre. The easier connections to growing employment areas such as the science park are also being welcomed by business leaders.
Asked about the possibility of connecting other services to Metrobus to allow people who don’t live near a stop to use it, Mr Freeman said First was “waiting to see what develops” after the m3 starts to run.
He said: “It’s a bus-based system so we can do anything.”
Anyone who wants to try Metrobus out can ride on the m3 free of charge between May 29 and June 9. After that, fares will cost between £1.50 for a one-zone single to £4 for an all-day, all-zone ticket.
Tickets must be bought in advance, either using First’s mobile m-ticket app, a smartcard or at new iPoint machines at Metrobus stops. Existing First paper tickets from Paypoint shops, Avonfare tickets and concessionary passes can also be used.
Mr Freeman said: “Metrobus combines low emissions, new customer-facing technologies and infrastructure on a massive scale. It will revolutionise public transport with faster journeys and a much higher standard in passenger experience.”
The m2 route from Long Ashton to the city centre is due to start in the autumn, with the m1 from Cribbs Causeway to Hengrove Park following in early 2019.