A4 bus lanes ‘not benefitting Slough’, says Labour backbenchers

SLOUGH councillors have expressed their distaste for the controversial A4 bus lanes and called into question its effectiveness.

Members on the place scrutiny panel clashed with cabinet councillors over the traffic congestion and air pollution along Bath Road.

The experimental A4 bus lanes and cycle lanes between Dover Road and Uxbridge Road have been subject to major objections from residents ever since it was implemented back in August 2020, which saw petitions signed their thousands.

The scheme, which was funded by the government’s active travel fund, originally ran 24-hours, but later changed to peak times only as well as allowing taxi drivers, and e-scooter users during its operation times.

At the extraordinary meeting on Wednesday, December 1, councillors were presented data on how the scheme impacted congestion, journey time, bus schedules, and air quality along the A4.

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Officers found the bus lanes have contributed to an increase in journey time for motorists by nearly three minutes but believe this is not “significant” to warrant removing the bus lanes.

They also found bus timing has improved, no spike in accidents, and congestion has not increased as a result of the bus lanes.

Air quality along the A4 has also improved, but officers cannot say for definite if it is because of the bus lanes. Slough’s current pollution level is 28 points, which is the borough’s second-best year, whereas the legal limit is 40.

But members complained their journey times have doubled due to congestion ever since the lanes have been implemented.

Cllr Gurdeep S. Grewal

Cllr Gurdeep S. Grewal

Councillor Gurdeep S. Grewal (Lab: Upton) said he “wasn’t a fan” of the A4 bus lanes, believing it’s not improving journey times and is making traffic worst on the A4.

He said: “I don’t think we have a bus service that warrants a bus lane and figures in the report prove that we’re causing more pollution and the journey time for more people is getting longer rather 50 to 60 people on the bus.

“You got hundreds of cars waiting for two minutes and 57 seconds extra. I don’t know where all these cuckoo land dreams come from where the bus lanes are benefitting Slough. I don’t think it is.”

A consultation was carried out to gather views from residents about the scheme. A majority of residents slammed the scheme as “bonkers” and a “waste of money”. Only five responses of support were received.

Councillor Harjinder K. Minhas (Lab: Langley St Mary’s) said: “I understand why we want the bus lane and I do say yes, we do need some changes, but this isn’t working at present.”

Council leader James Swindlehurst

Council leader James Swindlehurst

Council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab: Cippenham Green) said this is about changing peoples’ “behaviours” from using their cars for short journeys and use alternative transport or walk, citing 60 per cent of journeys on the main stretch of the A4 are residents making “very short” trips.

He also said this is to lay the foundation down for bus operators to add more services. He dismissed the idea of not a lot by buses using the lanes as “nonsense”.

Cllr Rob Anderson (Lab: Britwell & Northborough), lead member for transport, said this is about “getting ahead of the game” after he warned Slough roads could become ‘unsustainable’ even if everyone swaps to electric vehicles.

He said: “It’s about trying to get some of those people out of their cars to free up the road space, so people who have to use their cars can do it without sitting in traffic jams.

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“So, what we go to do is actually try and get to a position where we’re providing it for people to do.”

It was also heard the council is working on a bus improvement strategy to push private operators to add more buses on the roads and reduce fares.

Cllr Wayne Strutton (Con: Haymill & Lynch Hill) suggested widening the A4 to add another lane for buses to use and keep the two lanes open for motorists.

Officers have recommended to cabinet, who will decide on December 20, to make the A4 bus lanes permanent.

Slough Observer | News