Science hub proposals reignite calls for additional M4 Junction

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Paul Williams of Bruton Knowles' Bristol office.

Newly unveiled plans for a futuristic development facility at the Bristol and Bath Science Park in Emersons Green have been welcomed by property experts – but have also re-ignited calls for an additional Junction 18A off the M4.

Paul Williams from Bruton Knowles’s Bristol office believes the ambitious proposal for a hi-tech research facility reinforces the business case for the additional junction.

He said: “The University of Bath plans to build a new research facility looking at future  driving concepts in partnership with major manufacturers such as Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.

“But while we welcome globally significant research such as this it should be clear to everyone that the existing road network would struggle to cope with the additional 2,000 jobs it would create.

“These proposals highlight once again the overwhelming case for an additional junction on the M4 to serve developments on Bristol’s fast-growing Eastern fringe.”

Paul Williams said if agreed, the proposed research hub would create enormous problems on the already chronically overloaded Avon Ring Road.

“We are on record supporting and promoting the Bristol and Bath Science Park as an international business and research hub – but we have always maintained the facility is at risk of being compromised by the poor transport connections.

“We were pleased to see some of the candidates for the Metro Mayor election making positive noises about ‘sorting out Bristol’s traffic problems’, and since transport falls within their remit we hope that the successful candidate, whoever he or she may be, will indeed make this a priority once elected.”

The forthcoming Metro Bus system will provide direct links between the Science Park and both Parkway Railway Station and the city centre and will hopefully go some way to alleviating the traffic problems experienced in the area at peak times.

But public transport can only ever be a part of the solution – and a new motorway junction would make a massive difference to the accessibility of the Park.

The University of Bath plans to build the facility in partnership with major manufacturers such as Ford and Jaguar Land Rover.  The planned Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems would study breakthrough technologies such as electric engines and driverless cars.

Paul Williams went on: “If it goes ahead the centre will be unique in the UK – attracting businesses from overseas, putting the UK in the driving seat for creating a new breed of ultra-low emission vehicles.

“But schemes such as this rely on a fully functioning infrastructure network. An additional junction off the M4 would syphon traffic off the M4 rather than pushing it on to the M32 and then on to the Ring Road – both of which are heavily congested.

He concluded: “Bristol has a world-class facility in the form of the Bristol and Bath Science Park and it will naturally attract world-class developments – but it could struggle to fulfil its true potential if the infrastructure issues aren’t resolved.”

The scheme to relieve pressure on the existing M4 junction at Hambrook was first considered 30 years ago – and rejected in favour of increased concentration on public transport.

Unfortunately the investment in public transport has been slow to arrive, and in the meantime the traffic problems have increased exponentially, with significant impacts on travel times not to mention the health impact of regular queues of traffic on local residents and the environment. It would be ironic if the success of the planned Institute of Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems was stymied by traffic problems outside its front door.