Liverpool is putting forward proposals to suspend operation of all of its bus lanes from 21 October, in a trial project aimed at keeping the city moving.
The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, is asking Cabinet, on Friday 27 September, to approve his recommendation for the nine-month suspension.
Data gathered by the city council indicates that bus lanes are not leading to an increase in bus usage in Liverpool, and may be making congestion in the city worse.
The trial removal of all 24 bus lanes, citywide, will give the city the chance to put this to the test, collect comprehensive data and evaluate what, if any, benefits the lanes are bringing to the city.
Mayor Anderson said: “Buses remain hugely important to the city, and we will continue to invest in sustainable transport schemes such as our forthcoming Car Club and Cycle Hire Schemes. However, we have a commitment to reduce congestion and the harmful emissions associated with this and to keep the city moving, for the benefit of residents, commuters, visitors and businesses.
“Ultimately, the evidence we have indicates that bus lanes are not benefiting city as planned – either for buses or cars. This trial is about investigating this further so we can make an informed decision over whether the permanent removal of bus lanes will bring benefits to the city.
“Bus lanes are one of the biggest sources of complaints for our highways team. We receive a huge number of objections from motorists who stray by mistake into bus lanes and are hit with a fine of at least £30. We know they are a source of frustration for many people in the city. We have listened – and we are taking action.
“Some people have suggested to me that we shouldn’t do this because the bus lanes generate income of
£700,000-a-year for the council. But in my view it would be immoral to treat motorists as a cash cow, and that is why my priority is making sure that we take a look at this properly.
“This is only a trial, and if we find, after nine months, that it is not working, then the bus lanes will be reinstated.”
Watch this video in which Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson explains why he is proposing suspending bus lanes for a nine month trial period.
The city council will consult fully with stakeholders during the suspension period, with the first six months of the trial giving individuals and organisations the opportunity to make objections and comments.
The plans form part of the Council’s commitment to ensure safe movement of vehicles, improve traffic flow and ensure the city makes the most of its highway network.
A detailed report will be brought back to Cabinet before any final decisions are made. The suspension of the city’s bus lanes will only be made permanent if clear benefits to the city can be demonstrated.
The Council’s on-going monitoring of bus lanes – both directly by officers and through the city’s camera network – has found that a number of the city’s bus lanes are having a major impact on traffic movement during the morning and evening peak periods, in some cases causing significant congestion.
The research has also found that some bus lanes are under-utilised, and that, even at times when bus lane restrictions are not in force, many drivers still do not use them, creating further congestion issues.
The Council will also explore possible alternatives to bus lanes, such as HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes to reduce traffic congestion; and Red Routes, on which vehicles are not permitted to stop, extending to stopping for loading or unloading, and to boarding or alighting from a vehicle (except for licensed taxis and blue badge holders). Red routes are used in other parts of the country on major bus and commuting routes.
It is expected that the costs associated with removing the bus lanes will be minimal. It will involve the removal of sign faces (retaining the sign poles) and the masking of the existing road markings. This would make the reinstatement of the bus lanes, if necessary, a relatively straightforward process. Bus lane enforcement cameras will be retained but switched off during the trial.
The proposals are being discussed at the Transport Cabinet meeting on Thursday 19 September. If they are given the go-ahead by the Mayoral Cabinet on 27 September, it is anticipated that the works to remove the bus lane signage and mask the road markings will be completed on 21 October.
• The Third Local Transport Plan for Merseyside recognised that the overall trend for bus patronage as a proportion of the total public transport journeys across Merseyside was showing a continual decline. In 2005/6, nearly 82% of public transport journeys were made by bus, compared to 78% in 2009/10.
• Conversely, rail patronage is on the increase, with local figures showing that since 2003, Merseyrail has seen a 50% growth in passenger numbers. Despite this rise, there has been no significant drop in the number of vehicle movements across the city.
• Liverpool City Council took the decision in 2011 to consult on and remove a section of bus lane between Stoker Way and Hornby Road, following complaints from motorists and a recognition that the bus lane was having a negative impact on the local retail park.
• As this proposal is only a trial suspension of enforcement, all existing fines will remain collectable, and the city will continue to collect outstanding debt.