Good transport, strong city – inspiration from Bordeaux!

I am freshly back from a week in beautiful Bordeaux and a reminiscence on a superb urban transport network and lessons learnt.  We were staying in the countryside outside of the city in nearby St Emilion (yes, THAT St Emilion with the super red wines…!) and used the day trip opportunity to check out how Bordeaux does park and ride… isn’t that exactly what holidays are for???

The Bordeaux Metro is a 3 line system criss-crossing the city centre.  We used Buttiniere on Line A where the 2 branches come together and head through Cenon and into the city centre across the river from the east.  For more information on the Bordeaux urban transport network, visit:

Well, Buttiniere has a 600 place multi-storey car park, the tram stop right outside and a major bus interchange.  To park and get 2 1-day travelcards covering the whole urban transport network cost us 8,30EUR.  Pretty impressive.  Below are some quick snaps I did manage to get before the tram arrived!


The Bordeaux metro network is probably my favourite in the world.  No catenary wires in the city centre area (there are outside of this through the suburbs) as the current runs (safely) along the ground and is picked up by the tram as it passes through the city centre area.

The Alstom trams are large, air-conditioned and bright.  I noticed this time that they seemed significantly fuller throughout the day compared to my last visit a year ago.  Given the price and frequency that is not a surprise.  The ride in to the city centre from Buttiniere was quick and easy and finding the park and ride facility from the Rocade (ring road) was a doddle.

What it illustrated really clearly to me is that a city the size of Bordeaux with sufficient clout as well as devolved power and money to drive the city forward has made an amazingly good job of using transport investment to support economic growth, regeneration, tourism and much more.

Along the line in from Buttiniere, through Cenon with the suburban rail interchange, past the Jardin Botanique and through Place Stalingrad you see significant regeneration work has taken place.  The Bordeaux metro has been the catalyst for swathes of urban realm improvement with significant pedestrianization, cycling space, planting and beautifying what is a truly delightful modern European city.

Why can we not do the same in Birmingham and the wider West Midlands for example or other English cities?  Well Nottingham and Manchester are leading the way.  But the key issue is the lack of power cities have in terms of power and funding to determine their own futures.  Without this, the control of Whitehall is crippling our once great cities (London is excepted as it does have a fair amount of power and money…!) and blocking their progress and this needs to change as a matter of urgency.  Our cities are our economic and social driving forces, we hold them back at our peril.

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