Metro Mayor Dan Norris says climate activists are right after campaigners hijacked M32 billboard

Metro Mayor Dan Norris has responded after he appeared on a billboard hijacked by climate activists earlier this week. Activists from Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol (XRYB) replaced a disused billboard on the M32 in Easton on Monday (June 27) with a design featuring a picture of Mr Norris.

His photograph appears alongside his quote promising “public transport for the 21st century” along with the captions “what happened?” and “demand better from WECA”. The action forms part of XRYB’s Free Buses, Fair Buses campaign that demands free bus travel in the West of England for all those under the age of 25, all students and all apprentices.

The group also wants to see a consultation and public forum to identify improvements to bus routes that would best serve communities and promotes the importance of a strong bus system as a key way to achieve net zero by 2030. XR Youth spokesperson, Torin Menzies, 17, said the West of England’s bus system is in a “dire state”.

Read more: March to save the Meadows in Brislington that the Mayor said wouldn’t be built on

He continued: “For too long have politicians dragged their feet on the issue – we’re demanding free bus travel for young people across the West of England and an improved and fair bus network for everyone as a measure to tackle the climate crisis, air pollution crisis, cost of living crisis, and educational equality crisis altogether.”

When Bristol Live approached Dan Norris for comment on the billboard campaign he admitted that “reaching our really ambitious net-zero by 2030 target won’t be easy”. Mr Norris – who has recently demanded local government pension schemes cut ties with fossil fuel companies – also said Extinction Rebellion is right to highlight the bus system as a crucial way to achieving this target.

Mr Norris said: “During my year in office I’m pleased to have secured record levels of funding for our transport network – almost 2/3rd of a billion pounds. That might sound like a lot, and it is a good start, but remains only a fraction of the £20 billion required.

(Image: Silverbirch)

“It is vital we get on and show government we know how to deliver to secure the billions needed for first-rate public transport of the future.” He added that he will keep playing his part in fighting for every penny he can from the Government and urged local people to start using the buses again – his full statement on the billboard campaign can be read below.

Transport Action Network, Liveable Neighbourhoods for Bristol, TRESA, and B&NES National Education Union have all endorsed XRYB’s demands to WECA, among other organisations. Other billboards calling for ‘free and fair buses’ appeared on Bath Road last week.

The campaign is pushing for the improvement of bus services to reduce carbon emissions, reduce air pollution and congestion. Extinction Rebellion Youth Bristol (XRYB) is a separately organised under 30s branch of Extinction Rebellion in and around Bristol

Full statement from Metro Mayor Dan Norris:

“Reaching our really ambitious net zero by 2030 target won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. But for the planet’s sake, we’ve got to do it. Creating a West of England bus service that is high-quality, reliable and, most importantly, fair to passengers has been and remains one of my highest priorities as Metro Mayor of this brilliant region. XR are right when they say this is crucial in getting us to net zero by 2030.

“That’s why, during my year in office, I’m pleased to have secured record levels of funding for our transport network – almost 2/3rd of a billion pounds. That might sound like a lot, and it is a good start, but remains only a fraction of the £20 billion required. It is vital we get on and show government we know how to deliver to secure the billions needed for first-rate public transport of the future.

“Creating a local transport system that is top quality and fair to local people means we have to overcome big challenges, meaning big choices need to be made. Most buses are run commercially. The Government’s failure to get a grip of ongoing driver shortages means we don’t have enough bus drivers to run all the buses. I’m trying to address that with new driver training schemes.

“Bus costs are also skyrocketing – up a staggering 42 per cent. I was shocked to learn we were forking out over £200 per passenger per journey on some routes. Under my watch, the West of England Combined Authority has ensured that does not happen again as our limited resources must be used as efficiently as possible. I am currently looking at innovative fare schemes whereby I put some money in to encourage more people to use our buses each day. And franchising is and remains on the table as an option.

“We all agree what local people want and deserve: a reliable, affordable public transport system is fit for the future and works for everyone. I will keep doing my bit in fighting for every penny I can from government. I also urge local people to start using the buses again – it’s that old adage – use it or lose it. The greater number of passengers travelling on buses, the more fare income there is to invest in the better public transport the West of England region needs and deserves”.

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