Transport for London plans to start operating its bus lanes around-the-clock. The extended hours of bus lanes on the TfL road network reflects a customer shift away from peak hours during the pandemic.
The trial will start in late summer and last a minimum of six months.
The changes reflect a current customer shift away from travel at ‘normal’ peak hours with demand now spreading throughout the day. The aim is to make bus journeys quicker throughout the day – 24-hour bus lanes are seen as a way of reducing the impact of congestion on buses.
It is hoped the bus lane revisions will see bus journeys become more consistent, taking a similar amount of time, irrespective of the time of day. Running more consistent services will make it easier for Londoners to follow the government’s advice to travel outside peak times where possible.
Customers will be able to more accurately plan their journeys, and greater service reliability will also prevent large queues forming at bus stops, making social distancing easier.
Before the pandemic, in 2018-19, 1.15 billion journeys were made on the bus routes that will now benefit from the proposed changes. There is a need to provide space for people to use active, sustainable and socially distanced modes of travel.
Capacity limits on buses allow no more than 30 passengers on double decks and 11 or 14 on single decks, depending on bus size. Drivers may allow more passengers at their discretion, in particular for family groups. However, TfL said that even with current capacity restrictions due to social distancing, a single-decker bus could carry ten times the average occupancy of a car yet only use twice the amount of road space.
Existing access for bikes, taxis and motorcycles will be retained, while designated disabled parking bays, Blue Badge parking facilities and most loading bays will also be retained in the trial.
Claire Mann, Director of Bus Operations, at TfL, said: “The pandemic has changed the way we all live, work and travel. For that reason, we need to adapt our network, be flexible and continue to help people travel safely and reliably as London gets back on its feet.
“The proposed changes to the operational hours of bus lanes will have significant benefits for bus passengers and people cycling beyond the current hours of operation, many of which were introduced years ago in a very different situation. We will carefully consider all feedback to ensure the trial has the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people and supports London’s recovery from coronavirus.”
Making bus journey times faster and more reliable is one part of TfL’s approach to the city’s recovery from coronavirus. TfL has been working with local authorities to introduce the Mayor’s Streetspace programme, which is creating more space for people to walk and cycle while ensuring that people who need to travel by public transport can do so safely, quickly and reliably. The Streetspace scheme has seen £55m of investment so far and more than 800 schemes approved across all 33 boroughs.
TfL said it has introduced a range of cleaning and hygiene practices across the transport network to help reduce the spread of coronavirus. This includes all regular 'touch point' areas such as poles and doors being wiped down with a strong disinfectant every day, and the use of additional hospital-grade cleaning substances.
Other safety measures include the mandatory wearing of face coverings over the nose and mouth for the entire journey, unless an exemption applies. Customers must not remove masks mid-journey, and the police and TfL's enforcement officers are patrolling the transport network to ensure everyone follows the rules, which are needed to help control the spread of the virus. Already more than 33,000 people have been stopped from travelling until they put on a face covering.
Throughout the trial, TfL will seek feedback from passenger representative groups, the business sector, accessibility and inclusion groups, as well as road safety and road user groups. TfL will also be engaging with London TravelWatch, who has been campaigning for an extension to bus lane hours. Members of the public will also be invited to feed back on the changes.
Tim Bellenger, Director of Policy and Investigation at London TravelWatch, said: “Bus passengers will welcome this initiative to improve bus speeds, reduce journey times and improve service reliability. This is something that London TravelWatch has called for over a number of years, most recently in our recent Mayoral transport priorities. We look forward to working with TfL as they progress this work.”
TfL said it would launch the statutory consultation on extending operating hours of lanes shortly.
A decision on making the trial permanent will be subject to a review of its operation, data on bus journey times, the safety of people using the bus lanes and other road users, as well as impact on those protected under the Equality Act 2010.
The traffic orders can be found online by clicking here
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