2 Maximising the capacity of existing
road space |
8. People travel not only by car, but by other
modes of transport, including bus, bicycle, motorcycle, and on
foot; and goods are transported by lorries, vans and other vehicles.
Each mode of transport has its own specific requirements, and
tensions can arise between road users sharing scarce road space.
David Brown, of the Passenger Transport Executive Group (Pteg),
described the multiplicity of travel patterns using different
modes as "a complex mix that contributes towards overall
Making adequate provision for specific groups of road users is
an important part of managing the road network effectively. For
example, bus lanes and other bus priority measures are tools that
local authorities deploy to help make bus services more reliable
and to ease congestion by managing traffic flows. We received
more evidence in favour of priority measures for buses than against:
ITS UK ("ITS" refers to Intelligent Transport Systems)
wrote that "a double-decker bus carries the equivalent of
50+ cars but occupies the space of fewer than 5 cars".
Passenger Focus carried out research published in March 2010 which
showed that "improving punctuality is the highest priority
for bus passengers"; and their "Bus Passenger Survey"
in July 2010 found that while "overall passenger satisfaction
with their bus journey ranged from 84 per cent to 92 %",
the proportion of passengers satisfied "was generally lower
for the length of time spent waiting for the bus (68-82%) and
whether the bus arrived on time (67-84%)."
9. David Brown, of PTE described the way in which
South Yorkshire used Government funding to tackle congestion by
supporting bus use:
We put that money into measure to support bus travel
but also to reduce overall congestion. That was successful and
led to increases in funding. Now, despite the fact that background
traffic levels have increased over that four-year period, the
average journey in the peak is lower than it was four years ago
because we targeted that money, which is against a national outcome
but was delivered on a local sub-regional level.
Evidence also showed that well-designed bus lanes
do not delay other traffic. Peter Nash, of Stagecoach, told us
about an example in Newcastle, when traffic flow was measured
before and after a bus lane was introduced: "The traffic
flow was exactly the same afterwards as before, but the buses
jumped the queues".
We also heard about the benefits of allowing other vehicles to
use bus lanes at certain times, but that it depends on the location.
David Brown, of PTE, said:
In places like South Yorkshire, we have differences
between Sheffield and Doncaster. In Doncaster, we have introduced
bus lanes as additional road capacity, purely for buses, cyclists
and taxis, whereas in Sheffield, in certain areas, that is more
difficult just because of topography. Therefore, we have had to
concentrate on traffic light priorities in Sheffield. So it does
vary depending very much on the individual locations.
10. Our recent inquiry, Bus
Services after the Spending Review, concluded that bus services
are an important and valued form of transport for many people,
enabling them to participate in employment, education and voluntary
services, and to access health services and shops. Bus lanes are
an important means of supporting local transport, and if well
designed, bus priority measures can also make a substantial difference
to our congested roads.
11. Bus lanes can provoke strong feelings both
for and against and this was exemplified by the debate on the
M4 bus lane, a controversial 3.5 mile bus lane on the eastbound
carriageway of the M4 motorway, between Heathrow Airport and central
London. The lane was opened as a pilot in June 2001 by the then
Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, and was reserved for buses,
coaches, motorbikes, emergency vehicles and licensed taxis (but
not minicabs). It was suspended in December 2010 and the road
width has reverted to all-traffic use. The bus lane will be reinstated
temporarily for the 2012 London Olympics as a 'Games Lane' for
accredited Olympic athletes, officials and others, after which
it is likely to be scrapped permanently.
12. The Campaign for Better Transport described
the M4 bus lane as "a particular example which can help as
part of overall traffic management" and wrote that:
One year after it opened, the Transport Research
Laboratory looked at the bus lane and compared journey times before
and after it opened. Their findings showed how effective the bus
lane was at cutting peak-time congestion [...] Despite claims
that the bus lane was always empty, TRL found that '7% of the
vehicles on the M4 into London use the bus lane, but they contain
21% of the people, including drivers.' One in five people entering
London via the M4 did so via the bus lane.
However, Ministers refuted this point; Norman Baker
MP said that "the bus lane was not largely used and was used
particularly for coaches" and Mike Penning MP told us that
"[i]t was not doing the job it was designed to do and was
creating a more congested area before the elevated section of
the M4, which is why we made the decision, after consultation,
to remove it".
In written evidence, the Department said:
Since the suspension of the M4 Bus Lane on 26 November
2010, journey times have shown an improvement in line with
our modelled predictions. Initial investigations currently show
an improvement in average daily journey times of approximately
40 seconds from M4 Junction 4 to J1 in an eastbound direction.
However, further in-depth analysis will be carried out during
2011 to validate these early conclusions.
13. It is clearly too early to tell whether or
not the decision to scrap the M4 bus lane has speeded up traffic
flow, although there are early indications of modest improvement.
that the Government publish early next year a detailed assessment
of traffic flow on the M4 in the year since the bus lane was scrapped.
If the evidence shows that the bus lane contributed to faster
movementtaking account of all travellersit should
14. A wider range of road users affects congestion
on local roads. Christopher Peck of the CTC, the national cyclists'
organisation, told us that "you can carry 14,000 cycles per
hour per lane, as opposed to 2,000 per hour per lane for a car".
Living Streets made the point that many streets are places for
experiencing and living in, rather than simply a means of moving
to and from a destination.
Car clubs and car sharing schemes are on the increase; Mike Penning
MP told us that "we are a nation that loves its car"
but schemes such as these can meet that need, while making better
use of existing road space.
15. Making the most of the road capacity for
all road users requires active management of the road network
by the highway authorities and they need the appropriate tools
to do that. The Traffic Management Act (TMA) was intended to prompt
local highway authorities to tackle congestion effectively and
to give them additional powers to do so. Part 6 of the TMA provides
for the rationalisation and extension of civil enforcement of
parking, bus lane and other moving traffic contraventions. However,
it is only in force in relation to parking. While there is other
legislation covering bus lane enforcementand, in London,
other moving traffic contraventions such as in relation to box
junctions, banned turns and access controlsthe free movement
of traffic across the road network outside London is hindered
by the inability of local authorities to enforce moving traffic
offences. Mark Kemp, of the Association of Directors of Environment,
Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) spoke of its success in
You can see these things working in London and, to
some degree, some of the benefits they have had have come from
these powers. But, quite clearly, there is a win to be had in
getting that part of the Act through so that local authorities
can take on that responsibility should they wish to do so. I know
that some of the major cities around the country are keen to do
16. We can see no reason why
Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 should not be fully
commenced to enable local authorities to deal more effectively
with moving traffic contraventions and we recommend that the Government
bring this part of the Act into force, by 2013.
17. Maximising the capacity of existing road
space can help to alleviate congestion and the managed motorway
scheme is one means of achieving this. Since 2006, a pilot 'Active
Traffic Management' scheme has been operating on part of the M42
south of Birmingham, which involves traffic being allowed to drive
on the hard shoulder, under controlled conditions, at busy times
of the day. The scheme involves information signs, ramp metering
and an incident management system that allows operators to open
or close any lane to traffic and to reduce the speed limit, in
order to help alleviate congestion or to clear an incident.
18. Our evidence was predominantly in favour
of the managed motorway scheme. In written evidence, the Institute
of Engineering and Technology (IET) described the merits of the
M42 pilot scheme:
The evidence of its success is well documented, which
includes a 24% reduction in average journey times, 27% improvement
in journey reliability and a rollout which was 40% cheaper than
building an extra lane. Personal injury accidents also decreased
from 5.1 to 1.8 per month.
Andy Graham, of the ITS UK, told us that "many
of the stakeholders who were concerned about it at the start of
the project over the three years it has been monitored have all
believed it to be a success".
Nick Reed, from the Transport Research Laboratory, told us:
From the studies we have done, we find that people
generally behave quite conservatively. They follow the signs;
they do what is being asked of them by the managed motorway information.
That really does help to improve the traffic flowthe traffic
situationand increased throughput has been observed on
the active traffic management scheme on the M42.
19. Nick Croft of the Association of Chief Police
Officers (ACPO) generally supported managed motorways but went
on to say that
on the M42 around the Midlands, most of the junctions
are very close, so we do not tend to get very long tailbacks.
Our only concern would be where we have four lanes of stationary
traffic over 12 miles between junctions. It is how you get the
emergency services to people. If it is a matter of life or death
where, very unfortunately, minutes can make the difference between
someone living or dying where their airway is blocked, for instance,
we need to get people there quickly. There is just, I suppose,
an element of caution for us to say how we make sure we can do
that. There are ways round it, but we just have to make sure that
when we go for those schemes, we are going into them with a full
knowledge of how we access the route at times of crisis.
20. The DfT's written evidence described its
intention to introduce managed motorway schemes on other motorways:
As part of our future spending programme, we will
be taking forward a number of managed motorway schemes across
the country. The M42 pilot of hard shoulder running showed that
the measure can improve reliability and reduce the number of accidents,
delivering a substantial proportion of the benefits of conventional
road-widening solutions, while securing cost savings of at least
Indeed, the future spending programme includes introducing
the scheme to sections of the M62, M4, M6, M1, M25 and M60 between
now and March 2015, which represents the majority of approved
major road investments for this period.
It illustrates a major change in emphasis from widening motorways
to using the existing network more intensively, perhaps also reflecting
the criticisms made by the National Audit Office of the poor cost-effectiveness
of the current M25 widening scheme:
The Agency should have given greater consideration
to hard shoulder running from the outset of its project. Even
in late 2008 and early 2009, when the Agency had satisfied itself
on the general benefits and savings of hard shoulder running,
we believe it should have given great consideration to the approach
before its final decision to let the widening contract. [
We estimate there were potential construction and financing savings
to consider of £400-700 million (12-21 per cent) over the
private finance widening.
21. We agree with the Government
that the 'managed motorways' approach should be implemented on
other parts of the strategic road network, but are realistic in
recognising that the approach may not alleviate the whole problem
of congestion. Also, we share concerns with the police about
safety on stretches of motorway where junctions are widely spaced
and where the use of the hard shoulder by motorists could prevent
emergency vehicles from reaching accidents. The Government needs
to address how to manage congestion on stretches of motorway where
the 'managed motorway' approach might not be appropriate. In addition,
we expect the Government to monitor the effectiveness of the managed
motorway approach as it is extended more widely, with particular
reference to cost and safety issues.
15 Ev 18 Back
Ev 85 Back
Ev w15 Back
Ev 20 Back
Ev 22 Back
Ev 20 Back
Ev w21 Back
Ev 63 Back
Ev 124 Back
Ev 7 Back
Ev 175 Back
Ev 61 Back
Ev 82 and Ev w21 Back
Ev 15 Back
Ramp metering involves the use of traffic lights on a slip or
ramp road, to control the flow of vehicles onto a motorway. Back
Ev 161 Back
Ev 30 Back
Ev 15 Back
Ev 52 Back
Ev 123 Back
National Audit Office, Highways Agency: procurement of the
M25 private finance contract, HC 566 Session 2010-11, p 31 Back