If you think about it, Avonmouth should be bustling. It is one of the UK’s major ports for chilled foods. There are also large chemical manufacturing plants and distribution centres for major retail operations. It has good motorway and rail links. In 2010, there were 14 200 people employed in the area and it has been designated an Enterprise Zone with the forecast of creating 10 000 new jobs by 2030.
And yet, in an email written a year ago in support of the WEST bid for LSTF funding, Sue Turner of the Bristol Port Authority described Avonmouth as having the feel of a ‘withered arm’. Why?
One reason, and frankly the one we at Esoterix are interested in, is public transport. There isn’t any. Or not much.
Take Cabot Park (in Avonmouth)as an example. There are some trains but from St. Andrews station to where people work is at least a half hour walk.
Those reliant on public transport to get to work (but not living directly on the train line) have a miserable time.
Most people living in the North West of the city, such as in Filton, Horfield, Southmead and Brentry, have to take one or two buses to get to Lawrence Weston. They then face a 45 minute walk down Kings Weston Lane, a road without lighting and, for a large part, pavements. Picture that in winter: a long, dark, cold, dangerous journey to work.
Unsurprisingly, driving is how most people get to work. Many employers admit that, if a job applicant doesn’t have a car (and a driving license, obviously), their company will throw their CV in the bin. No car, no job. No job, no car. It’s a vicious circle.
And I’ve told you all that so you have a bit of background before I tell you this: how our test-run to Cabot Park went.
It was frosty, it was dark, it was early one morning in December when we picked up our passengers and delivered them to work. As in our previous test-runs, operationally things went smoothly.
So what did the passengers think?
74% agreed that buxi is a good idea. When questioned, the other 26% turned out to be unsure because of misconceptions about the service. For example, one person thought the service would run only once in the morning and once in the evening and would therefore stop them from working overtime; in fact, the service would run regularly in order to accommodate all the different shift patterns across Cabot Park. Another person assumed the service would be significantly dearer than using a car; in fact, the service aims to be cheaper.
87% of participants currently use a car to get to and from work and the other 13% cycle or use public transport. The majority of the car drivers said they would use buxi daily at the right price (that price generally being the cost of petrol). The cyclists would use the service in bad weather.
There was widespread support for a shuttle service between Avonmouth and St. Andrews stations and Cabot Park.
Many people expressed the wish that “the service had been around when they first started work”. It is well understood that new recruits are more likely to consider adopting sustainable modes of transport than long-time employees.
If Avonmouth is to attract the 10 000 new jobs, efficient, sustainable transport options are needed now in order to avoid the need for large and expensive road infrastructure projects in the future. A recent report by Atkins states that only 1 000 of those new jobs will materialize if there is no significant improvement to transport provision in the area. If Avonmouth is to feel like a strong and healthy arm rather than a withered one, the area needs transport solutions.
The test-run reinforced our conviction that buxi is a good fit for Cabot Park. Buxi can service a large area, delivering passengers to the door of work and adjust to shift patterns of the various companies, without committing to the expense of a scheduled service.
If you agree (or if you don’t!) please comment.