Bristol West MP Stephen Williams has slammed the plan to turn the Bristol and Bath Railway Path into a guided bus route as “daft” and “quite loopy”.
Williams visited the path, which is now in his constituency, during the morning rush hour last Friday with members of the Campaign to Save the Railway Path and was described by them as “amazed to see how popular the path actually is.”
Williams later told campaigners on Facebook (membership required) : “I rode along the path early this morning with some campaigners. There were lots of riders on their way to school and work and also lots of pedestrians. Mixing the path with a bus won’t work!”
There’s a brief interview with Williams from the Railway Path posted above.
Williams joins the slightly more circumspect Kerry McCarthy, Labour MP for Bristol East, who gushed last week on her blog: “I’ve joined the Facebook group ‘I do not want the Bristol to Bath Cycle Path to turn into a Bus Lane!'”
What is this with local MPs and Facebook? Are announcements on this private and exclusive membership only section of the internet for students of constitutional significance now? Why don’t they post their thoughts where everyone can see them?
Back on her blog, McCarthy went on to say slightly more ambiguously: “I hope a solution can be found that will meet our public transport objectives and keep walkers and cyclists happy.”
McCarthy and Williams join Lib Dem councillors Abdul Malik and Muriel Cole, Green councillor Charlie Bolton and Tory councillor Lesley Alexander who have all now spoken out against the bus route.
Bolton has also organised a motion to reject the bus route on the Railway Path at the next Full Council Meeting on 1 April. As things stand, it appears Bolton and the Lib Dems will vote to reject the plans while the views of the Tories and Labour (who together hold a majority on the council) are still unclear.
The Save the Railway Path Campaign now has a website that is available on the ‘Bristol Sites’ sidebar.
Myself and Faruk Chaudhury (Labour Cllr Easton) have also made it clear we oppose the BRT going onto the path.
His letter to residents says “I fully support the campaign to keep the Bristol-Bath cycle path as it is now”
In fairness to Paul Smith, can I add that he was one of the first of our local politicians to come out clearly against the bus route proposals, well before the Easton meeting I believe.
Thanks Chris, once I realised it wasn’t a joke that is.
I don’t do jokes, Paul. I take myself far too seriously for that (if only other people did too – oh, was that a joke?).
I just don’t think we should forget the people who stuck their necks out early in the campaign when it wasn’t so clear where the electoral advantage might lie.
Chris! Paul was one of the many people who, when when asked what he thought about the idea of putting buses on the Railway Path, checked his calendar to see if April Fools day had come early.
Whilst the individually held views of people from different parties are interesting it is the party position of the group on the council that matters. Occasionally issues will arise where the local priority allows a member to take a view contrary to the group who are considering Bristol as a whole.Cllr. Malik (LD Easton) was expressing his personal view which as it happens was not in conflict with the Lib dem group as confirmed by our press statement. Before issuing this ,in advance of the Easton meeting, we had checked a number of facts and had discussions of the group leadership.It was considered and will stick.
Cllr. Choudray (Lab Easton) has also given his view but that is no guidance to which way he will vote when his party leadership are involved. He is not the only example but a quick look at his election leaflets show a remarkable divergance between promise and reality a few months into a Labour administration.We have had no statement from either of the Lab/Con alliance.
I am hopeful that the Lib Dem line of pushing towards the other routes will prevail but we cannot be certain. The danger of not encouraging an alternative is that the administration gets into a stupid choice between cyclists/walkers and the need for improved public transport with the extra pressure of government funding.
Lib Dems prevaricating on 1 April motion?
Lib Dem leader Steve Comer has written to an Eastville resident with regards to his view on Charlie Bolton’s motion to stop the bus route on the Railway Path.
It is clear that (a) they are not necessarily going to support the motion despite their warm wards to residents and to the press and (b) they may alter/water down the motion in some, as yet, unspecified way.
Looks like it’s business as usual from our local politicians. Here’s what Comer says:
Nice bit of cross-party consensus building there, Gary ! Does it ever occur to you that your confrontational words are likely to provoke an equal AND OPPOSITE reaction from the other key parties ? I’ve watched it happening time and again.
Meanwhile, I’ve just checked back on the press release you put out last month. It doesn’t actually commit your party to dropping the railway path proposal – it just wants to bring the other options back in.
Can you be clearer? Will your group be supporting Charlie’s motion, or trying to water it down with amendments?
I meant the proposal being a joke not your post!!
On the issue of how people will vote on Charlie’s motion – my guess is that it will probably amended or attempted to be amended by one or more of the main parties. I am intending to come along and show support for the path and if that means supporting Charlie Bolton – so be it
I know of at least five members of the Labour Group who oppose the plan, but it is up to them to make any public declarations. The last thing we want is for this to get caught up in party political mud slinging, we just want the plan ditched. I have to admit that I was in a group at the Easton CA meeting with gary Hopkins and we agreed….
I have just read Charlie Bolton’s motion. For me it is not strong enough. As currently drafted it could allow Council representatives at the WEP partnership to say that people don’t like the plan and then to vote for it.
The motion ought to include Bristol Representatives voting to veto any proposal to develop on the path and that officers should be instructed not undertake work that allows the plan for the path to to progressed.
Pete – Gary Hopkins has already responded to a direct question from me about supporting Charlie’s motion… with a deafening silence! Its not the only issue where he and the Lib Dems dont want to commit I’m afraid. Still, I live in hope…
Paul Smith wrote “Chris, I meant the proposal being a joke not your post!!”
Yes, Sarah put me straight on that. I thought at first that you suspected my post was in some way sarcastic.
On Charlie Bolton’s motion, I think it was deliberately mildly worded in view of the fact that the BRT system is proposed by WEP, not Bristol. I would have thought that a vote against the BRT route, even in the terms used in the motion, would be a pretty clear signal to WEP that the route was a no no.
If Paul can suggest stronger wording – which is acceptable – I am happy to look at it – other cllrs/ex-cllrs may understand council procedure better than me, but I believe I can change wording up to the point of its publication. (Although if this relegates me down the list, than that won’t do. Also, there are limits as to what you can and can’t say in them).
However, I agree with Chris Hutts comment – if Bristol City Council votes against BRT on the cycle path, it would be very odd if it went ahead.
I can confirm that Steve Comer’s comments re supporting an extension of time, and believe I have similar commitments from other party leaders that it will be heard.
Looking forward to Paul Smith’s support…..
Not looking forward to the amendments….
Gary Hopkins wrote:
“Whilst the individually held views of people from different parties are interesting it is the party position of the group on the council that matters.”
At risk of sounding naive, can I ask why this should be a party group issue? Is there any actual reason, other than the routine imposition of party discipline, why members shouldn’t be allowed to vote as they wish ?
I’ve raised the question of the railway path vote today with my councillor, not least because in this ward too there’s a Sustrans railway path, and WoE have longer term designs to put buses on that one too.
The response I got was a mere “your comments have been noted”. That’s one councillor who daren’t make any commitment or give any personal view until the group decides how it will vote.
What a depressing system.
The party system has its drawbacks but without a group taking an agreed line the public will find it even harder to keep tabs on matters and make politicians accountable. Very strange logic that we should not express our concerns about the planned abuse of the cycle path because it might therefore encourage Lab/Tory to support it. That appeared to be exactly the same line that you took when we put down a budget ammendment to kill off the incinerator.
The motion has weaknesses and as several commentators have predicted is likely to be ammended. If there had been consultation in advance of submission rather than an urgent attempt to be seen to be saying something it could have been made stronger. That might have been viewed as an attempt to build cross party consensus.
Gary Hopkins’ reply clouds the issue as usual. No-one has suggested that councillors, or groups, should not “express our concerns about the planned abuse of the cycle path” or about anything else.
Sure, the party group approach helps keep politicians accountable – if there are clear policies and philosophies that might help voters predict how they’ll aproach decision making. But what sign is there of that in the main party groups on the council, and even less of where “the planned abuse of the cycle path” fits into their thinking ?
Who has a clue what the LibDems are likely to do when it comes to a vote? I still don’t even know if Gary himself, let alone his group, think there are any circumstances under which the railway path might become a major bus route. Stephen Williams has made himself pretty clear. What about the rest of you?
Gary gives the game away when he calls Charlie’s motion “an urgent attempt to be seen to be saying something”. No Gary, that’s just the way you see politics. Hasn’t it occured to you that it might actually be an attempt to stop this stupid scheme happening?
There was, as Gary well knows, some urgency in getting Charlie’s motion tabled for the April council meeting. It gives it ‘pole position’, at least until the party groups start manipulating the agenda. It gave the ‘Save the Railwaypath Campaign’ the opportunity to secure Helen Holland’s promise at the last cabinet meeting that it will be debated in full council. It still could be seconded by members from any other party (or parties?) – it doesn’t have to be the Lord Mayor. And of course it could be strengthened – or weakened – by amendments put by other members. Question is – which way will they jump, and will they force all their members to jump together ?
Councillor Sylvia Townsend, Lib Dem, Redland – against.
Gary Hopkins at his patronising best:
“The party system has its drawbacks but without a group taking an agreed line the public will find it even harder to keep tabs on matters and make politicians accountable.”
On behalf of the public, let me assure him we are keeping tabs and intend to make them accountable. Its not that difficult to follow, thanks.
At least, not as difficult as the Lib Dems following a party line on such things as the EU Treaty vote….