Bristol: European Green Capital 2015

Feb 23, 2015, 06:26 PM

Susannah Streeter brings you World Business Report today from Bristol, an English port city with a rich industrial history.

Along the docks, huge cranes still tower over the water. They are relics of the past, as the largest ships now stop a few miles away at Avonmouth.

But much of Bristol's engineering heritage is still in use. Isambard Kingdom Brunel's famous Clifton suspension bridge, which opened 150 years ago is still a commuter route, and the soaring arches of Temple Meads station are a hub for intercity diesel trains.

Vehicle congestion is considered to be among the worst in England - yet there are also more cyclists in Bristol than any other UK city. And there are many other initiatives being put in place to encourage people to switch to greener transport.

It's partly why the city won the accolade of Europe's Green capital for 2015. And people living there do seem to want to make a difference. But in some areas pollution exceeds EU safety limits, and to assess just how much particulate dust there was on the route to school, one group of pupils in an area of the city callled Shirehampton, set up their own pollution crack team. We went to meet them.

And pollution is still too high for the city's mayor George Ferguson. Bristol is unusual, as it's one of only a handful of cities in the UK which voted in a referendum to have their own elected mayors. Mr Ferguson, a former architect, now has a lot more power than his ceremonial counterparts to bring in a green agenda, and he's provoked protests along the way.

To reduce commuter traffic he's introduced controlled parking zones, which prompted some traders to bring a tank into town..claiming the new rules would destroy small businesses.

And his plans for bus superhighways saw protesters take to the trees of a wooded area which would be destroyed to make way for the metro route.

So with so many conflicting agendas, harnessing people power to spark a green transport revolution isn't straightforward.

We caught up with George Ferguson at the city's docks to find out how he's pushing the green agenda forward.