Short-term thinking must not cloud bus lane decision

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If you weren’t aware of it already, there’s more than a hint today that we’re entering election season.

It’s not just in our report of the hustings from Havant – there’s a suspicion that the Mile End Road bus route in Portsmouth has become a ‘toxic’ issue and must be stifled at any cost – and the cost, we fear, is any sensible debate.

At first, when The News highlighted the issue of queues at the bottom of the M275, we were told by city council leader Donna Jones that the delays were due to increased checks at Whale Island.

‘The park and ride is being cited as the reason for the tailbacks,’ she said in January. ‘This is incorrect.’

However, this attitude changed and a week later Cllr Jones revealed that, having visited the area in the rush-hour, her plan was to remove a section of the bus lane to ease traffic flow.

This idea was discussed yesterday, and the city’s transport councillor Ken Ellcome decided on a compromise arrangement, in which only a short stretch would be removed. His decision came in the context of a detailed 20-page report from council officers who outlined why it would be a bad idea to do away with the stretch of bus lane – as well as potentially scuppering a park and ride that’s doing better than expected, if passengers were dissuaded from taking the bus due to encountering delays, they would only end up driving and adding to a road network that ‘is already reaching its capacity’.

Despite the background of more cars on the road – and an array of statistics to prove that on average overall delays in the morning have only increased by 38 seconds, and that the ‘point of queuing’ has moved from inside the city centre to outside it – Cllr Jones has, in effect, said that she’s unhappy with the decision and will ‘review’ it.

At which point do you trust your own experts, their figures, and indeed even your own colleagues’ judgment? At which point are thoughts made for the future of the city’s roads, rather than instant responding to outcry?

Because reactions such as this may well lead to popular – or populist – politics, but they rarely lead to good policy.

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