Highways Agency publishes the M4 bus lane research

Some time ago I commented that various Freedom of Information requested that had been made relating to the M4 bus lane had not been responded to within the allotted time. I am pleased to be able to report that the Highways Agency has finally responded to their two requests.

The first request was for the earlier reports produced by the Transport Research Laboratory in 2000 and 2002, including the one year report, a three year report and an 8 page summary of the three year report. These very detailed and clear reports show in considerable detail the benefits to both bus lane users and also surprisingly for non-bus lane users. This graph from the 3 year report showing the huge benefit in reliability for bus lane users following the introduction of the lane. Reliability of journeys for public transport is very important. Where there is unreliability the operator and users of the services need to added more time added to the journey ‘just in case’. Remember that 21% of people traveling into London use the bus lane in only 7% of the vehicles so this is a big group of disadvantaged people.

M4 bus lane reliablity

In addition to reducing the variability, it did of course also reduced the journey times themselves which followed the green line before the lane opened and then dropped to a consistent and much lower level afterwards.

M4 bus lane journey times

The second request was for the research underpinning the decision to remove the lane. These have now been published on the Highways Agency website and consist of:

Do notice that the business case and various other relevant reports were published subsequent to the announcement on the 2 October of its removal. In one respect this appears an odd way round,  however it is not really so odd when one considers that this was a political decision rather than a technical one. In the same speech Philip Hammond pledged to ‘end the war on the motorist and it seems to me that this decision was a symbolic one. As a symbol it is not a promising one for this vision of a huge switch to express coach supported by new coachway interchanges.

A noticeable absence from these recent reports is any estimate as to the impact on the bus lane users which a cynic might think was because the information was not helpful to the decision that had been taken. I am, however, pleased to see that the ‘before and after monitor’ specification says: “Average journey times and the variability of journey times are key indicators in examining the impact of the removal of the M4 Bus Lane….  Additional pressure has recently been brought to bear on the TechMAC contractor to ensure that the MIDAS loops on the M4 eastbound corridor are functioning and providing data”.

This same government has of course also made very clear commitments to open up data and make government more accountable which is a huge step forward which is going to ensure that the the very near future politicians will be able to base their decisions on far more information.

And it is also trying to make huge saving in public expenditure. Personally I see a very interest debate taking place over the next year or so. In particular I look forward to seeing more recent versions of figures 10 and 14 for the periods immediately prior to and subsequent to the removal of the bus lane in due course.

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About PeterEastern
Amongst other things I am interested in the overlap between information technology and personal travel and how we can remain mobile whilst also greatly reducing the negative effects of our travel.

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