Sunday, 6 October 2013
Well done Liverpool. Baker shows his anti car credentials for profiteers.
Copied from Local Transport Today
Norman Baker is getting heavy with Liverpool about plans to suspend bus lanes, in case it sets a precedent:
Transport Minister Norman Baker this week put pressure on Liverpool’s directly elected mayor, Joe Anderson, to drop a trial suspension of every bus lane in the city. In a letter to the Labour mayor, Baker says the plan is not “just a matter of local interest” and that suspending the bus lanes will “send out a worrying signal nationally about the importance of excellent public transport, especially in large city areas”.
Liverpool’s cabinet approved plans last week for a nine-month trial suspension of all 24 of the city’s bus lanes, which have been implemented over the last 20 years. The trial is due to come into effect on 21 October. Bus lane signs will be covered up and bus lane enforcement cameras will be switched off or removed and used for other activities, such as monitoring anti-social behaviour. Council officers say the bus lanes have led to “no clear change in modal shift” towards buses but have worsened traffic congestion and, possibly, air pollution.
Baker this week urged the mayor, who is the driving force behind the plans, to think again. “I would be concerned if decisions about changes to bus lanes, such as you may wish to take, were taken without the fullest regard to the implications,” he said. Bus lanes boosted bus punctuality, encouraged modal shift and eased congestion, he added. In addition, “once bus passengers are lost as a result of falling punctuality and reliability, experience suggests they would be hard to win back”.
Baker went on: “If the issue in Liverpool is actually about the effectiveness of specific bus lanes – and I understand that bus operators in Liverpool accept that some work less well than others – can I suggest that a more targeted approach might be appropriate rather than the blanket suspension proposed, including a prior analysis before any suspension is enacted.”
He said that if the mayor chose to proceed with a trial then it should be conducted together with bus operators and Merseytravel. Phil Stone, regional managing director, Arriva North West and Wales said: “We are disappointed that the mayor is recommending that Liverpool’s bus lanes are to be removed without any meaningful consultation on the issue. Any decision that has the potential to result in such a negative impact on city centre traffic, especially in the busy build-up to Christmas, should not be based on ‘gut feeling’, but instead should be as a result of serious, professional investigation and discussion regarding the possible outcomes.”
A Stagecoach spokesman told LTT: “This is a backward step and will have a negative impact on the mode of travel relied on by people on the lowest incomes in Liverpool. We believe the focus for Liverpool should be on more bus priority measures to help drive increased use of public transport – that is the most effective way to reduce pollution and congestion in the city.”
Ron Abbey, Merseytravel’s lead member for buses and a Wirral Labour councillor, told LTT: “We have to respect the mayor and his wishes. [But] We have the right to try and convince him it’s the wrong decision.”
In recent years Merseytravel has drawn up proposals for a series of Statutory Bus Quality Partnerships (SQBP) for particular bus routes in the conurbation. These would prevent councils from removing bus lanes during the life of the partnership. Liverpool, however, has refused to sign the SQBP agreements.
The council says some of the city’s bus lanes force drivers to make a one-mile detour through some of the city’s busiest junctions and that many drivers stay out of the bus lanes even when they’re not operating, thereby worsening congestion.
“Monitoring has identified that some of the bus lanes are underutilised,” the council adds. It says Merseytravel has identified four lanes in the city that are of little value to buses. “Many other local authorities have suspended of removed bus lanes from their highway networks,” Andy Barr, Liverpool’s divisional manager for highways and transportation told the cabinet. He cited Bristol, Ealing, Birmingham, Derby and Wigan.
The council will study the effect the suspension has on congestion and consider whether any or all of the lanes should be reinstated. It will also consider the conversion of lanes to High Occupancy Vehicle lanes or the implementation of Red Routes, though such measures could only be implemented in the “longer term”.
Phil Stone said Arriva would be happy to work with the city council to develop a city centre movement strategy and investigate how journeys would be affected by the removal of bus lanes. “We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these issues with the decision-makers within Liverpool City Council, we have written to the mayor’s office and made our views clear but have not, as yet, received a response.”
So when it comes to 20 Zones, a blanket is OK Norman? As is bus companies being allowed to profit from road space owned by all ratepayers and tax payers too? When you half a road, what do you get? Congestion!!