MetroBus (Bristol)

MetroBus (stylised as metrobus[1]) is a bus rapid transit system in Bristol, England. It is a joint project between Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire councils. The first route, service m3, began operations on 29 May 2018, followed by m2 on 3 September and m1 on 6 January 2019.

UWE - BCT 2926 (YN68EUV).JPG
OwnerBristol City Council
North Somerset Council
South Gloucestershire Council
LocaleBristol, England
Transit typeBus rapid transit and Guided busway
Number of lines3
Began operation29 May 2018
Operator(s)Bristol Community Transport
First West of England
System length31 miles


Bristol (UK) m2 metrobus enters Ashton Avenue Bridge from south, 27 Dec 2018

MetroBus is part of a package of transport infrastructure improvements in the West of England which have been designed to help unlock economic growth, tackle poor public transport links in South Bristol, long bus journey times and high car use in the North Fringe of the city and M32 motorway corridor.

MetroBus vehicles have priority over other traffic at junctions and use a combination of segregated busways and bus lanes.[2] They are double-decker Alexander Dennis Enviro400 bodied Scania biogas buses with two doors, one for boarding and one for exiting, to shorten stop times.[3]

Three routes will be initially served by MetroBus:[4][5]

The m3 route will be extended at a later date from Emersons Green to Bristol Parkway railway station, following works at the station to increase access for buses and other vehicles.[6]

The South Bristol Link section, between Long Ashton park & ride and Hengrove Park, is not currently operated as no operator will run services without a subsidy. It is anticipated that when a large development of new homes is built near the route, the service will become commercially viable.[7]

In central Bristol, The Centre was re-modelled and partly pedestrianised as part of the project.[8]


The £200 million project started in 2006, developed by the West of England Partnership, a partnership between South Gloucestershire, Bristol and North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset councils.[9] Three routes were originally proposed:[10]

From its announcement, MetroBus (originally called 'BRT') proved controversial. Responding to a campaign, described below, in 2014 incoming directly elected mayor George Ferguson decided to change the route of the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads service. Instead of travelling along Bristol Harbour and over Prince Street Bridge it would now follow Cumberland Road and Redcliff Hill, calling near Temple Meads station and around the inner ring road before reaching the city centre.[11] This change would have important implications for the route and its potential patronage. As the city centre was projected to be the most frequent destination, journey times for most passengers were significantly lengthened. As a result the revised economic appraisal in 2014 projected significantly lower passenger numbers than the original appraisal in 2011.[12]

An addition to the North Fringe package was proposed in 2015. The Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) will provide a more direct route from Bristol Parkway railway station to Cribbs Causeway, via housing developments at Filton Airfield.[13]

The scheme's promoters claimed in 2014 that it would reduce journey times by up to 75% between Long Ashton park & ride and Hengrove Park.[9] In 2015, services were expected to begin in 2017,[14] although this date subsequently slipped. The first route (M3) commenced on 29 May 2018.[3][15] Route M2 commenced on 3 September 2018 and route M1 in January 2019.[16][17][18]

Construction costEdit

The total estimated cost of the scheme initially was £200 million.[19] The Ashton Vale to Temple Meads route was £49.6 million, of which the Department for Transport (DfT) would contribute £34.5 million.[20] DfT would contribute £27.6 million, more than half of the total cost, to the South Bristol Link Road scheme which extends the A4174 ring road, with Bristol City Council contributing £8.4 million and North Somerset Council contributing £5.3 million.[21] The cost of the North Fringe to Hengrove package was estimated to be £102 million, with DfT contributing £51 million, £30.5 million from South Gloucestershire Council and £20.5 million from Bristol City Council.[22]

In 2016 estimated costs had increased to £216 million,[23] and in 2017 to £230 million.[24]


MetroBus has faced opposition from environmental groups who claim a new bus-only junction over the M32 (North Fringe to Hengrove section) would mean the loss of 12 smallholdings, loss of long-held allotments, expansion into green belt land, and loss of Grade 1 soil and land at Feed Bristol, a community food growing project.[25][26][27]

The scheme proposes mitigation for loss of allotments, soils etc but the Report to the Development Control Committee for the meeting of 27 August 2014 states, "Despite the proposed off-site mitigation, the NFHP scheme would result in the loss of 1.79 hectares of best and most versatile agricultural land."[28]

The 'Alliance to Rethink Metrobus' produced a 'Metrobust Green Capital 2015' calendar and a map showing planned destruction of green spaces across Bristol for the Metrobus scheme.[29]

The campaign to save the allotments was ultimately unsuccessful but an earlier campaign did succeed in changing the route of the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads Metrobus. This campaign focussed on a claim that buses would be routed in front of the M-Shed museum, damaging the environment of the waterfront.[30] In fact, as this video made in 2008 makes clear, the claim was inaccurate.[31] The buses would have run behind M-Shed, on what is now a road open to all traffic (albeit a no through road). The claim was repeated on many occasions by the media[32] helping to sway public opinion against Metrobus in the run-up to the Mayoral elections in 2012. This contributed to the decision of the mayor to change the route, as described above.

Approval processEdit

All planning permissions for the MetroBus network have now[when?] granted. The Ashton Vale to Temple Meads route was approved by the DfT in November 2013.[33] The South Bristol Link part of the MetroBus scheme was approved in January 2015.[34]


As of April 2016, construction had begun on all three routes.

Ashton Vale to Temple Meads (AVTM)Edit

Construction started in early 2015 on the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads route. Works for the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads MetroBus route include:[35][36][37][38]

  • construction of a total of 1.2 miles of guided busway (not continuous) from Long Ashton to the Ashton Avenue Bridge, together with a segregated path for cyclists and pedestrians,
  • the refurbishment of Ashton Avenue Bridge,
  • the construction of a new parallel bridge at Bathurst Basin, and
  • city centre works including new bus stops, upgrading of existing stops and installation of real time information displays.

North Fringe to Hengrove (NFHP)Edit

Work began on the Stoke Gifford Transport Link (SGTL) and Bradley Stoke Way in August 2015 as part of the North Fringe to Hengrove Package. The work includes the construction of new roads, widening the carriageway, a bus only junction on the M32 and the creation of new bus lanes on the A4174, Coldharbour Lane, Stoke Lane and SGTL.[39]

The widening of the A4174 required the replacement of the Church Lane bridge for pedestrians and horses, near Emersons Green. The concrete bridge was demolished in December 2015 and replaced with a steel truss bridge in June 2016.[40] Also in June 2016, the M32 was closed to allow the installation of a bus-only bridge.[41]

South Bristol Link (SBL)Edit

Work on this westward extension of the A4174 began in summer 2015 and involved the construction of:[42]

  • a new road with bus lanes from Highridge Common to the A370 Long Ashton Bypass,
  • a new realigned road from Highridge Common to Hareclive Road,
  • the new MetroBus route from Hengrove Park to Long Ashton Park & Ride, including a bus-only spur of about 700 metres connecting the new road to the park & ride site,
  • a replacement railway bridge on the Bristol to Exeter line (a branch from the Great Western Main Line).

The South Bristol Link Road was completed and opened to traffic in early January 2017.[43][44] The initial Metrobus network will not, however, run along the buslanes of the Link Road, although the road is used by services between the city centre and Bristol Airport.


As of February 2017, an operator for MetroBus services had not been found. An operator should have been in place 12 months prior to commencement of services (planned for Spring 2017), but bus companies were reluctant to invest in new buses to meet the requirements for MetroBus, whilst having a cap on fares. They suggested that the services would not be viable on a commercial basis. MetroBus had said in 2016 that public subsidy might be needed to attract an operator.[45]

In June 2017, it was announced that First West of England would run services on the first route to open – at that time expected to be the M2 from Long Ashton – and would not receive any public funding.[46] In April 2018, it was announced that the M1 route would be operated by Bristol Community Transport, under contract to First West of England, with the M2 and M3 services operated by First.[47][3]

Future expansionEdit

The West of England Combined Authority's Joint Local Transport Plan has outlined the ambition for future expansion of the MetroBus network to link Bristol city centre to Bath via Keynsham, Clevedon via Nailsea, Yate, Thornbury and Avonmouth; along with an orbital service linking Emersons Green to South Bristol. A service in Weston-super-Mare is also proposed.[48]


The current MetroBus network has shown signs of bus rapid transit creep; primarily not fully operating on dedicated bus lanes for much of its routes, operating in mixed road traffic and being subject to traffic jams.

In an open letter published in January 2020, James Freeman, the then managing director of First West of England, said services could not operate properly because buses were delayed by roadworks and congestion. He stated that the £230m of public money had been "largely wasted".[49][50]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "learn how metrobus is different - metrobus Bristol". metrobus (in British English). Retrieved 1 September 2019.
  2. ^ "MetroBus". BristolTempleQuarter Enterprise Zone. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Bristol CT wins MetroBus contract Route One 11 April 2018
  4. ^ "All you need to know about Bristol's MetroBus". Travelwest (in British English). Archived from the original on 28 September 2017. Retrieved 28 September 2017.
  5. ^ Onions, Ian (10 October 2016). "Revealed: The five routes for the new £200m Bristol MetroBus network". Bristol Post. Archived from the original on 11 October 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  6. ^ Cork, Tristan (24 April 2018). "Bristol Parkway has disappeared off the Metrobus map because the buses can't get to the station". Bristol Post. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  7. ^ Cork, Tristan (18 May 2018). "The forgotten and empty Metrobus route no one wants to run". Bristol Post. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Bristol Remembrance Day service returns to Cenotaph". BBC News. 12 November 2017. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b "Bristol Metrobus scheme 'could cut journey times by 75%'". BBC News Bristol. 15 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Metrobus". TravelWest. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 3 September 2014.
  11. ^ BBC News (2013) Change to Bristol bus 'rapid transit' route agreed. July 31st
  12. ^ Travelwest (2014) North Fringe to Hengrove Package Full Approval – Value for Money Appraisal
  13. ^ "Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension". TravelWest. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Bristol Metrobus services 'reduced to three an hour'". BBC News. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  15. ^ Bristol's beleaguered MetroBus finally launches BBC News 29 May 2018
  16. ^ Start date set for second Metrobus route in Bristol BBC News 2 August 2018
  17. ^ First Bristol's Metrobus m2 to operate from 3 September Coach & Bus Week issue 1354 7 August 2018 page 9
  18. ^ Second metrobus service to begin in September Route One 7 August 2018
  19. ^ "Bristol Metrobus services 'reduced to three an hour'". BBC News. 7 July 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  20. ^ "Ashton Vale to Temple Meads: Funding". Travelwest. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  21. ^ "Special report: What the South Bristol Link road will do for business". SouthWest Business. 31 March 2016. Retrieved 29 April 2016.
  22. ^ "North Fringe to Hengrove MetroBus Scheme granted full approval". Bradley Stoke Journal. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2016.
  23. ^ "Bristol MetroBus scheme costs rise spiral". BBC News. 26 October 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  24. ^ "Bristol MetroBus costs rise £10m to hit £230m". BBC News. 8 August 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  25. ^ Emanuel, Louis (28 August 2014). "Protesters angry as controversial plans for a MetroBus route for north Bristol narrowly approved". Bristol Post. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  26. ^ "MPs' concerns over Bristol Metrobus greenbelt plans". BBC News. 7 July 2014.
  27. ^ Blue Finger explained Blue Finger Alliance
  28. ^ "Final section of Bristol fast bus project clears planning hurdle". Planning Resource. 28 August 2014.
  29. ^ Home Alliance to Rethink Metrobus
  30. ^ Hijack Bristol (2012) They want to turn the waterside into a bus route ... please sign petition!!
  31. ^
  32. ^ "MetroBus revealed: How Bristol's new transport system is likely to look". Bristol Post. 20 December 2013. Archived from the original on 22 August 2014. Retrieved 8 March 2017.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  33. ^ "Government approves Bristol 'rapid transit' metrobus scheme". BBC. 6 November 2013.
  34. ^ "Business welcomes approval for South Bristol Link road scheme". Bristol Post. 20 January 2015. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  35. ^ Work on Bristol's MetroBus scheme to begin in just a few weeks Bristol Post 15 December 2014
  36. ^ Balfour Beatty awarded £26m Bristol MetroBus scheme Balfour Beatty 29 January 2015
  37. ^ Bristol tree-top protest against Metrobus scheme BBC News 2 February 2015
  38. ^ Eco-activists resist eviction from Bristol treetops The Guardian 12 March 2015
  39. ^ "Metrobus North Fringe to Hengrove Package". Alun Griffiths. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  40. ^ "A4174 ring road". TravelWest. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  41. ^ Onions, Ian (18 May 2016). "Bristol's M32 motorway to be closed to traffic during weekend in June". Bristol Post. Retrieved 18 July 2016.[permanent dead link]
  42. ^ "South Bristol Link". Alun Griffiths. Retrieved 14 April 2016.
  43. ^ "MetroBus Build". Travelwest. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  44. ^ "South Bristol Link Road opens to users". BBC News. 16 January 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  45. ^ Ribbeck, Michael (24 August 2016). "Public may have to help fund Metrobus as talks to find an operator stall". Bristol Post. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
  46. ^ "First Bristol named as Metrobus operator". BBC News. 20 June 2017. Retrieved 31 July 2017.
  47. ^ "Operators for first three routes now confirmed". Travelwest (in British English). 9 April 2018. Retrieved 26 April 2018.
  48. ^ "The seven proposed new Metrobus routes". Bristol Post. 28 November 2018. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  49. ^ Cork, Tristan (15 January 2020). "Public money spent on metrobus 'largely wasted', says man in charge". Bristol Post. Retrieved 20 February 2020.
  50. ^ "Open letter from James Freeman, MD of First West of England, addressing recent bus service disruptions and traffic congestion in Bristol". First Bus - Bristol, Bath and the West (in British English). Retrieved 20 February 2020.

External linksEdit