18,495 more West of England people are out of work since lockdown began according to new figures released today.

There are now 31,595 people in the city aged between 16 and 64 claiming unemployment related benefits.

The news came as national labour market stats showed the number of people reporting they had been made redundant rose to a record high of 370,000 in the three months to October.

Mr Norris, who has pledged to be a “jobs first” Metro Mayor, said “Not only are these worrying figures but we must remember that behind every number is a struggling family. Many families will be facing Christmas with worry and uncertainty.

I also believe that it is not a coincidence that redundancies escalated to record levels whilst the clock was ticking down to the end of the furlough first planned by the Chancellor before his last minute U-turn. I hope he has learnt from this and call on him to clarity right now ahead of the next furlough cliff edge in January.

The UK is now is the worst recession of any major economy and West of England people are counting the cost.”


Mayor Dan Norris has reacted with anger to reports of ministers potentially pulling the plug on free Wi-Fi on trains as part of a cost-cutting drive.

Most operators currently offer a free wi-fi connection as standard.

However, the Department for Transport has now decided wi-fi is “low priority” for passengers and that train operators need to “justify the business case for it”.

Mr Norris blasted the “bizarre” move which would make rail “less attractive” at a time when his West of England Mayoral Combined Authority is trying to get more passengers to use the trains.

He pointed to his multi-million-pound package of rail improvements including more frequent services from Keynsham, Yate and other West of England stations to Bristol starting this week thanks to a £7 million-plus investment from the Mayoral Combined Authority.

Calling the cut a “short-termist” move which will prove a “false economy” down the line, he said: “This is a truly bizarre move, and is the very definition of a false economy. Because what do people do on trains? They get on their phone or laptops when they’re travelling. They expect to be connected. If that option is taken away, they might think they may as well use their car – with all that means for the West of England, and our efforts to hit our ambitious net-zero targets. While my West of England Mayoral Combined Authority is investing millions to improve our railways for residents, we are being derailed in these efforts by short-termist ministers. It once again confirms that the Government’s only vision when it comes to our trains is managed decline. ”

Many happy returns – and singles! West of England Metro Mayor Dan Norris launches innovative Mayor’s Fares birthday initiative

Every resident in the West of England is being offered free bus travel throughout the month of their birthday thanks to an innovative £8 million initiative from the region’s directly elected Metro Mayor Dan Norris.

The plan is for the first passengers to travel free from 1 July 2023, and the scheme will run until 30 June 2024, so every resident’s birthday is included.

It is hoped ‘birthday buses’ will act as a catalyst for bus travel in the West of England to boost the number of passengers and, with a whole month of free travel, encourage a long-term shift in travel behaviour.

Currently, less than one in ten regional commutes are made on public transport, and congestion has a huge economic impact, costing the West of England £300 million a year, according to the Mayor, who has responsibility for transport and the economy. But it’s not just bad for residents’ collective pockets, it’s terrible for our lungs, and the lungs of our planet. 300 early deaths a year are linked to pollution locally, and 44% of carbon emissions come from transport.

In launching the scheme, Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “If you’re already a bus user, this is a free month of travel to help during this frightening cost-of-living crisis. It could see current bus users better off by one twelfth of the bus costs they shell out annually.

“But I hope birthday buses also give more people who aren’t already regular bus passengers the perfect opportunity to jump on the bus and try it out – perhaps for a regular commute, to go to the shops, a restaurant, or to spend their weekends enjoying the amazing attractions and great beauty of our region. We really need more people using buses to cut congestion, pollution and noise – and meet our important and very ambitious 2030 net-zero targets.

“If you’re not a regular on the buses, please give it a go – you’ve literally got nothing to lose, and a lot to gain. If you are a car owner, think how many times you could avoid filling up at a petrol station during the month of your birthday?

“I hope, with a whole birthday month to try the bus for free, the public comes to like, and even love, bus travel and then continue to use it into the future. Other places in the UK have tried free bus travel for a day, or a weekend, but this is very different. It’s about encouraging lasting behaviour change. Trying a whole month of free birthday bus travel could mean the travelling public never look back!

“I’m delighted to launch this ground-breaking scheme, and look forward to seeing as many people as possible making the most of this fantastic opportunity to travel across the West of England by bus in their birthday month for free.”

The scheme will cover over 350 square miles, including all of the two great cities of Bristol and Bath as well as the surrounding areas of North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire. All the main bus companies including First and Stagecoach have signed up to the scheme, and the region’s WESTlink bookable minibuses will also offer free travel.

The phased nature of the offer, with a twelfth of the West of England population being eligible at a time, aims to allow bus companies to manage increased demand and keep new passengers.

The Metro Mayor says data then collected during the year will help build a better understanding of how fare reductions of this nature affect passenger growth and the wider demand for public transport.

Dan Norris said: “People rightly say buses are important. That affordable transport is critical in this cost-of-living crisis. That urgent behaviour change of an ongoing kind is key to overcoming the climate emergency. This initiative to give free bus travel in the month of a passenger’s birthday is a UK first. It is innovative and new. It allows our brilliant region to show the rest of the country how to take on the big challenges of our time.

“I wish every West of England resident many happy returns – and singles!”

£3.6 million boost for cyclists secured by West of England Metro Mayor

Pedal power is the name of the game as Metro Mayor Dan Norris announced he has secured £3.6 million of new funding from government to boost cycling, and walking, across the West of England.

The focus will be to encourage local people to travel by bike for those shorter everyday journeys. 

The Mayor wants to make it easier and more secure to park your bike which is why there will be new and upgraded facilities in the Old City, as well as a whole range of improvements for pedestrians – plus an additional 80 cycle hangars right across Bristol, Bath and NE Somerset, and South Glos, Mr Norris confirmed.

Meanwhile the cash will also be invested to improve cycle lanes – with plans to deliver new and improved cycle routes and tracks on Deanery Road and the Malago Greenway, as well as walking and cycling improvements linking Redcross Street to Braggs Lane, in the offing.

And Warmley and Longwell Green residents could see a host of improvements to provide a much-improved cycling route and access between the two areas, the Mayor added.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said: “If we are going to cut the jams and reduce pollution, one tool in our arsenal has to be more cycling and walking. To be the natural choice, getting on a bike has to be a safe, pleasant and convenient experience. Cycling shouldn’t be the preserve of the lyrca-clad super fit, but for as many people as possible.

“That means segregated cycle lanes, so people feel safe, and somewhere secure to lock up your bike – plus much, much more. Winning this cash is testament to the confidence in the plan we have here in the West of England to make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter everyday journeys. This is another step along that path as we take the action necessary to try to reach our really ambitious West of England net-zero target.”

This money builds on the £10 million-plus previously secured by Mayor Norris from ministers for walking, cycling and wheeling schemes in the West of England region.


West of England train passengers are set to benefit from much more frequent services to and from Bristol Temple Meads starting next week (Monday 22nd May 2023) thanks to a £7 million-plus investment from Metro Mayor Dan Norris’s West of England Mayoral Combined Authority.

Starting on Monday 22 May, more trains will be running from Temple Meads to Westbury and Gloucester benefitting those in Keynsham, Yate and other West of England communities.

Trains between Bristol and Gloucester will run every 30 minutes – departing from Temple Meads and calling at Filton Abbey Wood, Bristol Parkway, Yate and then on to Gloucester.

Meanwhile, it’s good news for those living between Bristol and Westbury also as they will get two trains an hour running for most of the day. Departing from Temple Meads, the trains will call at Keynsham, Oldfield Park, Bath Spa, Freshford (hourly) and then on to stops between Avoncliff and Westbury.

The Gloucester services also extend to Worcester once an hour and the Bristol to Westbury services will include more trains to Salisbury and then on to Southampton – improving West of England connections for both business and pleasure with neighbouring regions.

The new services are being delivered in partnership with Great Western Railway and Network Rail.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris said “I’m proud of this sizeable investment from my West of England Mayoral Combined Authority which means residents in Yate, Oldfield Park and other brilliant West of England communities will benefit from more frequent rail journeys. Delivering for local people is what this is all about – improving public transport is so, so important to help people get from A to B in the West of England, and to better connect our amazing region. And it’s vitally important if we’re going to meet our ambitious West of England net-zero-by-2030 target.”

Tom Pierpoint, GWR’s Business Development Portfolio Director, said: “It’s great news that we’re able to double services between Bristol and Gloucester to every 30 minutes, with hourly services continuing to Worcester, and increase services between Bristol, Bath Spa and Westbury as part of the next stage of the MetroWest programme. These enhancements have been made possible with funding from the West of England Combined Authority. Communities across the West of England and beyond will benefit from more frequent journeys, helping take cars off the road and improving opportunities for jobs, business and leisure.”

Daniel Round, industry programme director for the West of England at Network Rail, said: “We’ve been working really closely with the West of England Combined Authority, the Department for Transport, GWR and others to rollout these MetroWest service improvements. These services would not be able to be delivered without major infrastructure investment that has taken place in the last few years, including Bristol area resignalling, the Bristol East Junction upgrade, and redoubling the tracks between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood. These projects amount to more than half a billion pounds invested in the region, providing vital capacity which is now being used for new and extended train services for passengers.”

This is all part of a wider package of rail improvements from the Mayoral Combined Authority, Network Rail and other partners including the opening of seven brand-new stations – including in Ashley Down, North Filton next to the new arena, and at Henbury – over the next five years.


A rare species of bee has been recorded in the West of England for the first time.

The Nomad Bee, also known as Nomada zonata, was discovered by a local volunteer on Troopers Hill in Bristol as part of a West of England Mayoral Combined Authority-funded project.

The project sees residents taking part in bee surveys and other pollinator activities run by the Natural History Consortium thanks to a £100,000 grant from the Mayoral Combined Authority.

The bee, with a distinctive wasp-like appearance, is hairless and does not collect pollen for its young, but is nonetheless known as an important pollinator of plants, fruit trees and wildflowers.

It was first recorded in England back in 2016, and there have been only 113 sightings of it in total – the closest one being in Stroud back in 2020. The identification has been confirmed by bee experts.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who wants to make the West of England the bee and pollinator capital of the UK, said he was “thrilled” to have recorded the new species which, as a “cuckoo bee” – one that lay eggs in the nest of others – is a good sign of a “super healthy” bee population in general. 

He said: “This is an un-bee-lievable and super-important find. It just goes to show the brilliant work my West of England Mayoral Combined Authority and our partners are doing to make our amazing West of England region the best place in the whole country for our bee buddies.”

Savita Willmott, Chief Executive of the Natural History Consortium, added: “We’ve had a brilliant time showing communities across the region how to find and record pollinators and other wildlife as part of our project. It just goes to show how important it is to document our wildlife – you never know what you might find!”

The Metro Mayor’s successful Pollinator Fund scheme is funding over a dozen projects, including that run by the Natural History Consortium, which together are transforming over 220,000 square metres of land across the region to serve the West’s vital bee and pollinator friends.