We're supporting Better Transport Week 2024!
Northampton, UK

Bristol Mass Transport: An alternative vision

Bristol Mass Transport: An alternative vision

When thinking of mass transport in Bristol, a few things might come to mind. Buses, Metrobus, and a proposed Underground System. A network of integration, it currently is not. Bristol’s bus system is largely seen by many as slow and inadequate as the transport spine for a city of its size. This is coupled with the fact that the idea of building an underground is politically sensitive and has a general perceptive of being a ‘pie in the sky’ idea. What if the city was reimagined?

To be clear, Enroute supports the existing Underground proposals within the city, but this could be a viable alternative for such a politically sensitive issue. (This proposal assumes that MetroWest Phase 1 & 2 is completed as a baseline). 

This scheme has not been assessed for its technical feasibility and would be subject to a detailed review by specialist consultants.


Bristol is in dire need of an attractive backbone of a mass transport system. Here is an idea that Enroute proposes that takes inspiration from many cities across Europe:

  • Manchester: Upgrading existing national rail lines/rail corridors into mass transport systems. 
  • Rotterdam: A system that can be an underground, tram and mainline train all on the same line. The Airport line would likely share tracks. The Green line would be built to a tram-train specification to allow cycle facilities to remain/ cut costs. 
  • Liverpool: A rail tunnel under the city centre. 
  • German/ S-bahn/Stadtbahn systems: City centre tunnel of interlined service to create a metro like system in the city centre with maximum coverage.

Upgrades would need to be made including the:

  • Construction of new stations; 
  • Platform extensions to approx. 120m where necessary; 
  • Remodelling of Filton Junction and Narroways Hill Junction; 
  • Filton Bank slow lines (Narroways Hill Junction – Filton Junction) converted as well as all branch lines shown, additional tracks from Yate Junction – Filton Junction, Worle-Bristol Temple Meads, Keynsham – Bath Spa; 
  • Accessibility improvements; 
  • Signalling improvements to allow 4-6tph per branch and up to 24tph in the core; 
  • Full electrification; 
  • A new fleet of trains with level boarding;
  • A new Green Line. The Bristol to Bath cycle path would need to be considered, and compensatory mitigation measures such as a LTN 1/20 cycle route along Fishponds Road might need to be posed and constructed as an alternative for cyclists; 
  • New branches to Thornbury and Bristol Airport (shared with heavy rail); 
  • Mainline stations such as Nailsea & Backwell, Yatton, Weston Milton, Weston-super-Mare, Keynsham, Oldfield Park, Bedminster, Parson Street to lose connectivity beyond WECA area; 
  • Severn Beach Line enhancement. Double Tracking in its entirety and a new delta junction in Clifton; 
  • A new tunnel from the above proposed delta junction to south of Bristol Temple Meads; and 
  • A new/upgraded depot to store and maintain rolling stock.

These changes can all be considered as more minor, less disruptive, and likely cheaper than the current underground proposals and would likely help to create a ‘quieter’ public transport revolution within the city. An indicative alignment is shown below:

It is worth noting that stations within the Bristol area not on this map (e.g. Stapleton Road/Lawrence Hill/Patchway/a potential new St Anne’s station) will need to be served by existing regional services towards destinations including Cardiff, Gloucester, Taunton and Westbury to compensate for their reduction in service provision.

Within the city centre, the network has been designed to spread interchange throughout multiple stations, to reduce dwell times and spread crowds. The majority of rail interchanges would be at Temple Meads, and majority of bus/metrobus interchanges at St Augustine’s.


Bristol Metrobus currently acts as a service that largely fills up along the corridor and everyone travels into town. However, this enhanced network proposes a change to this strategy. The network is inspired by networks such as West Midlands Sprint and TFL Superloop to provide an integrated system with integrated fares (with the metro) to connect key nodes not feasibly on the metro network, and key suburbs.

This will create a drastic change as to how Metrobus is used, as it will mean buses will fill up and empty regularly at key nodes and stops shared with metro stations. That is the key of these 3 new extensions, to provide maximum interchange, and not necessarily minimum journey times into Bristol City Centre. This will help to create an attractive, polycentric, service that is a viable and convenient alternative to driving as well as a transport network that is less focused on Bristol City Centre.

Barring a few minor adjustments to largely avoid confusion (such as renaming stops in the city centre) the existing routes and proposed future/constructed extensions are shown. These are:




M2 (Orange) 

Centre – Westbury on Trym 

Connect key suburb of Filton, the major hospital (Southmead Hospital), Southmead and Westbury on Trym. This extension would mostly be useful for taking passengers to/from Filton Abbey Wood/Bristol Parkway. 

M3 (Light Green) 

Emersons Green –  Kingswood 

To connect the transport desert of East Bristol (including Downend & Kingswood) to Staple Hill & Emersons Green metro stations 

M4 (Light Blue) 

Centre – Kingswood 

To connect the transport desert of East Bristol to Lawrence Hill station and Hick’s Gate metro station. 

All routes would be increased to a turn up and go frequency of at least every 10 minutes, and vehicles upgraded to something more suitable for buses that regularly empty and fill up along their route. This would be in the form of an articulated bus type vehicle (e.g. a Belfast Glider-style bus or a trackless tram).


Overall, Bristol as a major city in the UK requires major public transport investment. However, with the political situation, it could be a good idea to enhance what is already existing, rather than build new from scratch. 

This network isn’t perfect, as there are still some connections that would be required to achieve a fully comprehensive network, such as an extension of M3 to Hanham, and a Metrobus link from Hengrove to Bedminster (which could be incorporated into an outer ring service from Long Ashton to Cribbs Causeway) to improve connectivity and fill in gaps. However, these services would not be considered initially, as it is important to design transport systems with realistic ambition that can grow over time as/when funding becomes available.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.