Fears over public safety as Portsmouth City Council leader backs opening all bus lanes to traffic

A bus lane in London Road, Hilsea, Portsmouth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (151531-182)
A bus lane in London Road, Hilsea, Portsmouth. ''Picture: Allan Hutchings (151531-182)
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BUS lanes in Portsmouth could be opened to all traffic in a bid to ease congestion on city roads – but the idea has prompted safety fears.

Tory council leader Donna Jones says allowing all cars outside of peak times to share lanes currently set aside for buses, hackney cabs and cyclists could work.

I want to look closely at the model Southampton has, and look at this from a safety perspective and a Department for Transport perspective, to see that it meets their guidelines.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council

She will consider the move after deciding in six months whether two mobile cameras – which the council have bought to catch drivers who use bus lanes – have done their job and should stay.

As reported, the cameras will go up on lampposts from November 1 – and if drivers are caught cutting into a bus lane they will get a £60 fine.

But speaking about the plan to open up bus lanes, Jon Spencer, the chairman of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said: ‘There is a potential danger aspect. It would be effectively turning roads into dual carriageways, which would encourage people to drive at speed.’

Mr Spencer questioned whether drivers would benefit. He said: ‘I would question the point of it, because the time of day when you will be able to open the bus lanes when buses aren’t using them would be limited.

‘It would be creating extra capacity on the road, but not when you need it.

‘You could open them up in the evening, yet that is when there is hardly any traffic on the road anyway.’

Cllr Jones said rules on bus lanes have already been relaxed in Southampton, and drivers can now use them during the day.

She said: ‘We need to look into it closely. We want to be a forward-thinking council that is using the best use of space as we can.

‘I want to look closely at the model Southampton has, and look at this from a safety perspective and a Department for Transport perspective, to see that it meets their guidelines.’

Cllr Jones added: ‘This could be a good idea because Portsmouth is such a congested city and traffic movements around the city can be quite difficult, particularly at weekends and during peak times. It would be a good idea to ease congestion.’

It follows moves made by Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt to come up with an action plan to tackle problems on Portsmouth’s road network.

One of Ms Mordaunt’s top aims is ensuring Portsmouth is put ‘top of the list’ for any pilot schemes, including the expansion of bus services, encouraging cycling, bringing in more lorry and van parks or by expanding the park-and-ride service to outside the city.

She also wants a ‘hit squad’ of officials brought in who have solved similar problems in other cities to see if they could bring new transport schemes to Portsmouth.