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Sunday, November 7, 1999 Published at 17:57 GMT


M-way bus lane cuts journey times

A controversial motorway bus lane appears to be working, despite cries of a fiasco when it was launched by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Only buses, coaches and taxis can use the lane which runs on a section of the motorway between Heathrow airport and central London.

Speed limits have also been reduced from 70mph to 50mph along the two remaining lanes.

But journey times have improved for all types of traffic in the first three months of the operation of the £1.9m lane on the M4 in west London, according to Transport Research Laboratory figures.

The figures will delight Mr Prescott, who was pictured against a backdrop of huge jams when the 3.5 mile-long lane was introduced on a one-year trial basis in June 1999.

He has also come under severe criticism for failing to get to grips with the UK's transport problems.

Blair 'cheated'

Shortly after the lane was opened, it was reported that Tony Blair's car had "cheated" and used the lane when the prime minister got stuck in a jam while heading for London.

Shadow environment secretary John Redwood called for the bus lane to be scrapped, saying that he, like many motorists, he had spent "many unhappy minutes" in traffic staring at the empty lane and "waiting to see the prime minister sweep by".

Figures published by the Highways Agency for the first three months of the scheme show:

  • Average daily flows of traffic on this section of the motorway have increased
  • The lane saved buses, coaches and taxis more time than cars, but journey times were quicker for all vehicles
  • During the morning rush-hour buses and taxis saved up to nine minutes and other vehicles up to six minutes
  • Overall, the bus lane saved more than 700 person-hours every weekday
  • There is no evidence of drivers diverting on to other roads
  • 3,400 vehicles a day have been using the lane - 700 coaches or minibuses and 2,700 taxis.

    It has been estimated that accident rates on the stretch should drop by 20%. In 1997, a bus lane was introduced on the M4 Heathrow Spur and accidents fell by 28% in a year.

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    Internet Links

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    Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions DETR Annual Report 1999 The Government's Expenditure Plans 1999-2000 to 2001-02

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