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"LONDON BUS LANE ENFORCEMENT
(1) Except as provided in subsection (2) a London borough acting as a local transport authority shall be responsible for deciding and setting the times for bus lane enforcement on any road or any proposed road within its jurisdiction in order to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority's road network.
(2) A road or proposed road designated by the Secretary of State, Transport for London or the Mayor of London as a strategic road during peak rush hour periods shall be exempt from the provision of subsection (1).
(3) In deciding the time for peak rush hour periods for a strategic road, the Secretary of State, Transport for London or the Mayor of London must consult and take have regard to the advice of the relevant London borough or boroughs."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment seeks to bring a degree of common sense to the issue of bus lanes in London. It does not seek to remove bus lanes; it merely attempts to improve the way in which they are used and to refine their use.

All too often we witness empty bus lanes and congestion in other lanes. On the flip side, we witness bus lanes that have 24 hour/seven days a week enforcement notices on them, effectively banning for ever all other traffic from those lanes. We cannot see the common sense behind this. Why ban traffic from such lanes at week-ends, when the volume of traffic is substantially lower and the number of buses in operation is dramatically lower than during rush hours?

The approach is inflexible; the amendment seeks to give more flexibility in the use of bus lanes. The policy is too rigid to cope with modern traffic flows around the capital. We have peaks and troughs—not necessarily during traditional rush hours—and if we could be more flexible in the use of bus lanes we would effectively see traffic moving rather better around London.

Under the Bill, the Mayor and Transport for London could, in effect, nationalise any road they desire in Greater London by designating it as a strategic road. This in itself is an erosion of boroughs' powers. I have no doubt that the number of these 24 hour/seven days a week bus lanes will increase as the Mayor takes over more and more roads.
 
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3.30 p.m.

The amendment therefore attempts to ensure that London boroughs have an opportunity to influence the times of bus lane enforcement on strategic roads within their area. On other non-strategic roads the boroughs would be able to decide on the times of enforcement. Surely they and local people in an area know—going back to our previous debate—what their traffic flows and peak times are. They must know the best way to ensure the smooth running of traffic in their boroughs.

Therefore we are seeking to improve the relationship between all parties with a vested interested in keeping London moving. That is why the Mayor and Transport for London will have a duty under the amendment to consult on the times of bus lanes enforcement on any strategic road in the relevant London borough. That will guarantee that the knowledge and expertise that the boroughs presently have on traffic flow within their areas will not go to waste.

This is a sensible and rational amendment that will help maximise the use of bus lanes for traffic but also assist in the smooth running of traffic around London. I beg to move.

Lord Snape: My Lords, I declare an interest as a special adviser to the National Express Group. I used to be chairman of its bus division so I have a strong interest in these matters. I cannot agree with the views of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. It is logical that if London boroughs are to have different times of enforcement for bus lanes the opportunities for confusion—I put it no more strongly than that—are fairly high.

I am always fascinated when I listen to debates about bus lanes, because the intention behind the amendment—whether or not inadvertent—is to defend the motorist. We live in a world where, even though we are all motorists, there is a strong lobby that says that the motorist is being hounded and pursued and should be—if I may paraphrase the noble Lord—allowed to drive in bus lanes at certain times of the day or week.

However, the reason why London's bus lanes are so successful is that people are aware that there is proper enforcement in London and because by and large in central London the bus lanes operate 24 hours, seven days a week. If one shares the view expressed by the noble Lord, there would be different times of enforcement in different boroughs, which would lead to obvious confusion. There would be a temptation for motorists to say, "It was five to seven,"—or whatever time—"there was nothing around and so I thought I would use the bus lane".

I am sure that I speak for other noble Lords in saying that there is nothing quite so annoying as sitting in a lane of traffic watching someone driving improperly up the adjacent bus lane. Whether it is white van man or black Jaguar man—it is usually a male of the species who behaves in such a way—it annoys those of us who believe that bus lanes have been enormously successful, particularly in this city.
 
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Comparatively recently I have taken to using buses again in London, largely because of their efficiency. I took the bus this morning from Paddington to Euston at seven o'clock. It was quicker than the Underground, largely because of the bus lanes on Marylebone Road. They are seven days a week bus lanes. Those who criticise their provision say that much of the time they are empty. Of course the same people would criticise them if they were choked with buses. The reason they are empty is because they are successful and the reason they are successful is because they are reserved 24 hours a day in this city and motorists know that they should avoid them.

I hope that for those reasons, if the amendment is pressed to a Division, your Lordships will oppose it.

Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, we have a busy city. One of the Bill's main points, especially for London traffic, is to have the most efficient road network. If bus lanes are not being used during the day, surely it is only correct that we make the most efficient use of them.

I understood the noble Lord, Lord Snape, to say that it would be confusing for motorists if we could use bus lanes outside the rush hour when they are not being used. I do not believe that that is the case, because if one drives beside a bus lane one sees blue and white signs stating clearly when it is active. It does not take much to understand whether it can or cannot be used outside those times, so this would not be difficult.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I support the principle of my noble friend's amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Snape, did not give the whole picture about bus lanes in London. He said that on some of the busiest routes they operate for 24 hours. That is not the case; for example, on the road from Victoria station to Hyde Park Corner, which I would have thought was a major London route, the bus lanes operate from seven to 10 in the morning and four to seven in the evening.

I accept that some bus lanes operate for 24 hours but I have always failed to understand why some of them do not have similar hours. Central government should not be over-prescriptive. We should allow sensible local decisions to be made. There are signs that say what the restrictions are, which are easy to see.

There are bus lanes in Oxford Street permanently clogged with buses. One could probably walk along Oxford Street from bus to bus. There are certain times of day when they do not seem to work at all, which is another problem. There are also contraflow bus lanes. I accept that it would be almost impossible for cars to use those, but some thought should be given to instances where we should be more flexible. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a positive response to my noble friend's proposals.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am certainly able to give some elements of a positive response to the noble Viscount because I agree that we need flexibility
 
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in the hours of enforcement of bus lanes, which the legislation covering the operational hours of bus lanes is designed to provide. The relevant authority, whether it is a borough or TfL, can decide what times are most appropriate in each situation. They can take into account all the relevant local factors such as the need to service properties alongside bus lanes and many other factors in reaching such decisions.

I approach the issue of bus lanes with a slight degree of caution. In my former life I had the dubious privilege of introducing the Greater London Authority Act 1999, which brought bus lanes to London. I would glory in that, but at the time we were not sure how to deal with taxis' use of bus lanes and whether they could stop in them. I was persuaded that we had the legislation a mite wrong only when 300 black cabs invaded my constituency, parked outside my constituency surgery on a Saturday and created the greatest congestion one could imagine in the London Borough of Enfield at that time.

I am a little cautious about discussing bus lane legislation, but I am confident on this matter. The noble Lord's proposed new clause does not hit the target that he seeks. It refers to,

Enforcement is the key word. It means the pursuance of contraventions of the bus lane during its operation hours by the London borough on whose roads it has been installed. Where the borough rather than the police carries out the enforcement, that is done under the London Local Authorities Act 1996.

The times at which enforcement is carried out are in the hands of the borough concerned. Of course roads may become strategic roads after being designated under the powers in Part 5. The provisions amend the existing powers in the Highways Act 1980 and Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Similar powers are already provided in the case of GLA roads. That means that Transport for London is, in certain circumstances, able to object to the exercise of any power under those Acts by the borough in any way where it would affect, or would be likely to affect, a strategic road.

The powers in Part 5 do not extend to other legislation, so Transport for London cannot decide on the enforcement on borough roads, which is what the clause relates to. Therefore the clause as drafted does not have the desired effect, if the reference to enforcement was intentional. That said, we would certainly expect there to be close co-operation between Transport for London and the boroughs on enforcement of bus lanes on strategic roads as many of those roads could be significant bus routes, important both locally and strategically. Of course, the network management duty would also play a key part here given the need for authorities to work together to consider the network as a whole.

The noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, was perhaps really trying to address the decisions about the hours of operation of bus lanes, rather than their enforcement. When bus lanes are installed, the works involved could be covered by the relevant powers in Part 5 in relation to strategic roads—that is, the exercise of powers to
 
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determine the times at which bus lanes operate flow from the powers in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. Therefore, Transport for London could have a say in what happens on a bus lane when it affects, or is likely to affect, a strategic road, when it is put in or if the times of operation were changed.

In practice, statutory procedures for making traffic regulations orders for bus lanes require consultation between authorities; and the network management duty in Part 2 of the Bill requires co-operation between authorities to keep traffic moving, buses included. Again, we therefore expect to see boroughs and Transport for London working together in ways that both give the priority to buses that is essential to keep the services reliable and attractive and reflect local issues about use of roads.

I hope that the noble Lord will appreciate that we have constructed the Bill to guarantee that there is necessary consultation and co-operation between the relevant authorities on this crucial issue—and I do not for one moment deny the significance of the issue. However, I must insist to him that the way in which the amendment is drafted does not hit the target he intends to hit. I hope that he will withdraw the amendment.


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