The historic city of Bristol is the largest urban area in southwest England, providing a centre of industry, commerce, education, and culture. In recent years the economic focus has been on the service sector, the relocation of major financial institutions to the city reinforcing its position as the regional capital.
Recent developments, particularly for leisure and residential purposes, have concentrated around the Harbourside area near the city centre.
Bristol’s activities in PRoGR€SS
A proposed road user charging (road pricing) cordon was defined for Bristol city centre in 1999 (see right), and work has continued as part of PRoGR€SS to investigate the detailed impacts that could be expected if such a scheme was introduced.
Extensive data collection has been carried out to create a baseline picture of transport patterns in the city before road user charging, enabling evaluation work to be carried out in conjunction with the thematic network, CUPID.
Road user charging cordon
Research and consultation on the legal and financial aspects of the demonstration will be undertaken, in association with the national government’s Charging Development Partnership (CDP), of which Bristol City Council is a founding member. Through the CDP, Bristol City Council is also contributing to the development of an appraisal strategy for road user charging schemes.
The main element of PRoGR€SS in Bristol will not be the implementation of a full-scale road user charging scheme, as originally anticipated. Delays to the principal complementary measure, the Light Rapid Transit system, are the main reason behind delays in the road user charging implementation timetable. Through PRoGR€SS, Bristol will therefore be carrying out a technology trial for a total of 3 months between July and December 2003, as described below:
Bristol will be working closely with the national government and their DIRECTS (Demonstration of Interoperable Road-user End to end Charging and Telematics Systems) trial which is being carried out with the city of Leeds and looks at distance-based charging for HGVs. Road user charging equipment will be tested on a range of vehicles from cars to HGVs.
On board equipment (OBE)
The demonstration will involve the testing of Mobile Positioning Satellite (MPS) equipment and will be based on the cordon (described below), and two of the main access routes into the city centre. The equipment consists of on board equipment (OBE), which will be attached to the dashboard of the volunteer’s vehicle, with a lead to the power source of the vehicle and a lead to the antenna on the roof.
The effectiveness of the equipment will be tested, as opposed to researching the behavioural responses of drivers. To do this, an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system will be used at 3 locations to verify when a volunteer has been picked up by the MPS equipment crossing the cordon or driving on either of two identified access routes into the city centre.
Mobile Positioning Satellite (MPS) equipment
The MPS equipment, including the OBE, is on loan from the Government prior to being used in Leeds, so interoperability between the sites can be tested.
Bristol City Council
Bristol City Council is the local authority for the City of Bristol, with responsibility for all public services including transport and urban planning. The council is at the leading edge of assessment and development of road user charging/pricing in the UK. Bristol City Council are the co-ordinators of the PRoGR€SS project, and as such will be responsible for overall project management and delivery.
Transport & Travel Research
Consultancy firm Transport and Travel Research (TTR) will be supporting Bristol City Council as an assistant contractor. TTR has many years experience in European projects. TTR will support Bristol City Council in the development of the scheme and will take a major role in the development of the evaluation plan and delivery.
The transport situation in Bristol
Bristol has excellent interurban transport connections, as can be seen on the accompanying map. There are direct motorway links to the rest of the country, an express train service to other major cities, an international airport, and a seaport. However, the development of the city and high growth rates in car ownership, have resulted in increasing traffic levels and congestion in the city. It is now widely recognised that the congestion problems in the city cannot continue, both for economical and environmental reasons.
Map of Bristol
The transport strategy
In July 2000, Bristol City Council produced a Transport Strategy in the form of the Bristol Local Transport Plan. The strategy was formulated following extensive consultation with the general public and key stakeholder groups in the city.
The integrated transport strategy for Bristol has a three-pronged approach:
Transport supply, development, and regeneration
Travel demand management
Road user charging, as part of travel demand management, is being promoted only as part of this overall strategy. As the consultation work made clear, alternatives to the car need to be in place before charging would be acceptable. As well as demand management measures including traffic calming and controlled parking zones, the Local Transport Plan outlines various improvements to local transport in Bristol. The key improvement is a Light Rapid Transit (LRT) system consisting of an initial Line 1 running from Parkway railway station to the north of the city into the city centre and main shopping area.
Portway Park and Ride site
There are several other measures that will be introduced prior to the major engineering work that will be required for the LRT. These include Showcase Bus Routes, Park & Ride sites, improved cycling facilities, and better real-time passenger information, many of which have been implemented since the start of the PRoGR€SS project in 2000. The picture shows one of the buses serving the Portway Park and Ride site, the city’s third such site that opened in 2002, part-financed by money from the government in advance of road user charging being introduced.
The history of road charging in Bristol
Bristol has been considering a strategy incorporating road user charging since the BRistol Integrated Transport and Environmental Study (BRITES) was carried out in 1991. Strategies combining public transport improvements and demand management were tested, the results showing that a combination of Light Rapid Transit and road user charging was the most cost effective method of reducing the number of trips into the city centre.
Following this, the Traffic Restraint Studies (Stage 1, 1993; Stage 2, 1997) were undertaken to assess demand management measures such as road user charging, parking charges, and fuel prices. A series of three orbital cordons were modelled: inner, central, and citywide. The study concluded that a charge of between 1.9 and 3 Euros per cordon would lead to a reduction in car trips throughout Bristol by 14% to 20%, significantly contributing to transport and environmental objectives. Widespread consultation was also undertaken with the public and local businesses, the inner cordon proving the more popular of the proposed options.
A consultants’ study was undertaken in 1999, investigating the geographical area and scheme type against a variety of assessment criteria. The preferred scheme was found to be an electronic tag-based city centre cordon with 14 entry points, as shown at the top of this page. From 2001-2003, a detailed design study was carried out on this scheme by a consortium of consultants led by Atkins. The study, known as BATS (Bristol Area Transport Study), looked at the potential impacts of introducing such a scheme on traffic in and around the city, and involved the creation of new transport models.
Demonstration projects have also been undertaken through the European projects ELGAR and INTERCEPT. These Fourth Framework projects examined the behavioural impacts of road user charging combined with different “carrot” measures, using a pool of volunteer motorists.