A supersonic first Initiative evening to kick off 2018

Amie Vaughan
Initiative Manager - West of England Initiative
7th March 2018

Held in partnership with Bristol Junior Chamber, the first Initiative evening of 2018 got off to a flying start last night.

The venue was Aerospace Bristol, a £19m museum and learning centre, which opened in mid-October last year. It is the home of Concorde Alpha Foxtrot - the last passenger jet to complete a supersonic transatlantic flight - an attraction which has seen 60,000 visitors pass through the museums doors in a little over four months.

In the John James Theatre overlooking the Concorde exhibition, BCCI Vice President David Mellor, standing in for President Richard Bonner, opened proceedings by welcoming the 150 guests and gave a special mention to the latest members, Social Communications and Community of Purpose.

“2018 is a special year – it’s thirty years since the Initiative was formed”, said David. 

“We have a good track record but need to meet challenges of the future.” he continued. A message which provided the perfect segue for Chief Executive of Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative, James Durie, to deliver an update on the Initiative’s work in the city region.

On infrastructure and placemaking, James gave a lowdown of 2018’s most significant developments: the Joint Spatial Plan, which will now move to a formal examination in public later this year and the expansion of Bristol Airport, whose recent consultation process emphasises that transport to and from the airport and the passenger experience are key areas for future development.

James mentioned that growth around Temple Quarter and Cumberland Basin (or Western Harbour as it is known) is something to keep an eye on over the next few years, before delivering an upbeat message on the spirit of collaboration emerging in the West of England.

James spoke about how the new LEP Board has ambitious plans to deliver inclusive growth in the region working side by side with business and in partnership with WECA to support the Government’s industrial strategy.

James pointed to the Bristol, Bath & West of England’s joint delegation to MIPIM -  a global built environment and investment conference - as evidence of the progress that is being made. 

Next week business leaders and political figures from across the West of England will head out to Cannes to showcase the investment opportunities in the region and help to secure the £10bn inward investment that is required to deliver on the ambitious growth plans for the region.

James also gave a brief mention of the 5G testbed project, involving the University of Bristol and other partners in the region, before introducing guest speaker Mark Hopwood, Managing Director of GWR, who updated the audience on modernisation plans for the western mainline - the level of investment and improvements Mark listed were impressive.

The new electric-diesel high-speed trains, which launched in October are providing more capacity and greater comfort on journeys between the West of England and London. In doing so, GWR has created 70,000 more passenger seats across the network, and it now has a total of 93 high speed trains in the fleet. 

Electrification of the route between London and Didcot is helping to cut down journey times from Bristol to the capital and a new timetable is due to launch in January 2019, which will see four trains to London every hour. The MetroWest project is reaching another milestone with the installation of four tracks between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood over the Easter Weekend.

He also reminded the audience that with the completion of Crossrail later this year, journeys into the key business areas such as Canary Wharf in London would be up to 40 minutes quicker than they are today.

In terms of the passenger experience, the introduction of smart ticketing is reducing queues at stations across the network and sales of on-board refreshments are up due to the expansion of at-seat services. 

Mark brought his talk to a close thanking the business community for backing their ambitious plans.

Following Mark Hopwood, Charles Chami, President of Bristol Junior Chamber (BJC), gave the audience an overview of BJC and its achievements before Polly Barnes of My Future My Choice, an innovative education project supported by the Bristol Initiative Foundation Trust, took to the stage.

She began her talk by posing a question to the audience: “As a child what job did you envisage for your future? Did you think you’d end up in business?”

Polly mentioned that most commonly, young people say that they want to be a footballer or a hairdresser when they grow up, but given that there are more realistic or rewarding opportunities in business, gaining experience in business from an early age is an important foundation for launching a successful career.

My Future My Choice runs a number of successful projects across Bristol and the West of England to achieve these aims, including ‘Bristol Loves Tides’ and ‘Build My Future’ in collaboration with Patchway Community School. In addition, they are just about to launch their ‘Reach Out My Experience’ campaign, details of which can be found here. Our othe charity partners Key4Life were also in attendance.

After Polly Barnes, Bristol International Balloon Fiesta’s Operations Director Ben Hardy previewed a landmark year for the festival, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2018. To mark the occasion the original 34 balloons which made up the inaugural fiesta will be back on display. He thanked the audience members and the 1100 volunteers for their support, wishing 2018 to be the best ever for this very important event for the city and region.

Following the meeting guests were treated to a drinks reception on the impressive mezzanine level overlooking Concorde as well as the chance to board Concorde Alpha Foxtrot and the simulator.

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