Slough councillors clash over temporary A4 bus lanes trial

THERE were fiery clashes between councillors over the controversial temporary bus and cycle lanes on the A4.

A motion was brought forward by the opposing Conservatives at Slough’s full council meeting on July 21 (Tuesday) to allow fully electric cars and private hire vehicles to use the bus lanes to reduce traffic congestion and encourage the move to cleaner alternatives.

This follows the ‘experimental’ temporary bus lanes scheme on Bath Road from the Huntercombe Spur to Uxbridge Road, which saw two petitions set up calling for the lanes to be abolished.

The leader of the Conservatives, councillor Wayne Strutton (Haymill and Lynch Hill) said these bus lanes will cause ‘real difficulty’ getting children and teachers who use private hire vehicles to get to school.

READ MORE: Children’s service says anxiety increased in staff during coronavirus

The motion was successfully amended by the ruling Labour party to allow electric vehicles to be worked into the scheme once the government makes Green Number Plates for alternatively fuelled vehicles in October.

Councillor Robert Anderson (Britwell and Northborough: Labour), lead member for transport and environment, said allowing petrol and diesel private hire cars into the bus lanes would ‘defeat the objective in dealing with the air quality’.

He said: “The fact is, this is an experimental scheme and we will see what happens as we go through the easing of the lockdown, the returning of the schools – hopefully – in September, and the potential return of people homeworking as they come back into the town.

“The point of having an experimental order is so it can be changed and we can get real data from the road running so we can see what we need to change if we have to.”

READ MORE: A coronavirus delayed playground opens to Slough children

After the motion was amended, councillor Dexter Smith (Conservative: Colnbrook and Poyle) expressed concerns over the ‘serious’ economic viability damages this scheme will cause to the town centre.

He said: “By reducing the capacity of our busiest roads, the most important internal road in our town, by up to 50 per cent on the bits where bus lanes are introduced on dual carriageways is potentially going to cause chaos.

“We wanted to rebalance this because if you consider the vehicles that will be allowed on the bus lanes are only about five per cent of the total vehicles it’s like squeezing 95 per cent of the traffic onto 50 per cent of the road.

“There’s clearly going to be a serious impact and we don’t need an experimental study to tell us this.”

READ MORE: Slough school pupils continue to excel above UK average

The leader of the council, councillor James Swindlehurst (Cippenham Green: Labour), said: “If we’re serious about a clean air strategy – which the Tories claim in their own text that they want us to be – you have to start promoting electric vehicles, public transport, cycling, and walking, and make things a little bit more inconvenient for car drivers – particularly if you’re trying to get rid of older, dirtier vehicles off the road.”

He added: “When we moved our clean air strategy, the Tories complained and said we should be doing more. When we do more, they complain they don’t like it and they rather we help car drivers more.

“At some point we got to make the tough decisions to try and start putting down the public transport infrastructure that will support a decent future of public transport network we want to build and we’re determined as a cabinet not to back to the levels of dirty air pre-Covid-19.”

During the council leader’s comments and remarks, Cllr Strutton laughed.     

The original motion for allowing electric vehicles and private hire cars to use the bus lanes was defeated, but electric cars could be added into the scheme, Cllr Anderson told the meeting.

Slough Observer | News