04:30PM, Thursday 02 December 2021
The controversial bus lane on the A4 in Slough could be made permanent as councillors clashed over traffic congestion and pollution at a meeting this week.
Members sitting on the Slough Borough Council (SBC) extraordinary place scrutiny panel yesterday (Wednesday) argued over the effectiveness of the lane.
The measure has been met by serious opposition and petitions from angry motorists calling for the lane to be abolished since it was brought in temporarily last summer.
SBC introduced the lane as the town eased out of lockdown, with the local authority’s overall aim to get people on sustainable transport.
The bus lane – which runs the length of the A4 from Huntercombe Spur to Uxbridge Road – was initially brought in as a 24-hour scheme but the council gave into pressure and reduced it to peak-time only last December.
Councillors at this week’s meeting were asked to ‘consider and comment’ on whether the scheme should be made permanent, which is what council officers recommend.
“The peak time only bus lane will give buses an advantage over traffic that will improve bus reliability,” officers say.
They add that this will ‘improve modal shift’ to sustainable transport, while additional works on revised road markings and signs would be needed. Costs to make the scheme permanent are about £98,000.
The scrutiny panel’s comments will now be referred to a cabinet meeting on Monday, December 20.
Councillor Gurdeep Grewal (Lab, Upton) was heavily against the scheme, and clashed with party colleague and lead member for transport Cllr Robert Anderson (Britwell and Northborough).
“Why are we doing all of this?” Cllr Grewal said. “We are actually making it worse – increasing journey times for hundreds of people. What is the improvement in this for residents?”
He made reference to council officers’ estimates that bus journey times had improved by two minutes since the implementation of the lane – while journey times for motorists had increased.
“That is hundreds of cars queuing up for [an extra] two minutes,” he said. “I do not know if Cllr Anderson flies in – but my journey times seem to be getting longer.
“I do not think we have a bus service that warrants a bus lane – I don’t know where these cuckoo dreams come from that the bus lane is benefiting Slough – I don’t think it is.”
Cllr Anderson praised the scheme and said the town’s pollution levels had improved since the lane was installed.
He said: “We now have traffic levels we saw pre-COVID, but we do not have the same level of congestion.
“That is because there is an evening out of the traffic on the road, it has moved to being much more spread out over the day.”
He added: “We do not have the bus service that we need, but the only way we are going to get one is if we make some changes to the way the town is set up.
“What we are trying to do is get ahead of the game and make sure we are putting in things that allow people alternative modes of transport.”
Cllr Anderson said that the council would ensure all bus lanes across the town were ‘exactly the same’ in their regulations to allow them to join up coherently with the A4.
Design work is also being undertaken for a segregated cycle lane along the A4, which has not yet been costed.