A CONTROVERSIAL bus lane leading into Portsmouth city centre is to be scrapped after the leader of the council overturned a previous decision made by her Tory traffic colleague to keep it going.
Councillor Donna Jones announced at a meeting this afternoon the route between Havisham Road and Church Street will be opened back up to all traffic on the back of complaints by motorists that it has created heavy congestion.
The impact that will have on buses and bus users will be so minimal and the impact it will have on people who come by car will be substantially positiveCouncillor Donna Jones
The lane was introduced to coincide with the introduction of the city’s new park and ride service last year.
Cllr Jones said the change would have a ‘minimal’ impact on buses and public transport users and the priority had to be attracting new businesses and jobs to the city.
But critics say axing the lane will do little to minimise the number of cars using Portsmouth’s roads and will only make matters worse.
Cllr Jones said: ‘I think it is justified to take away just over 100 metres of road to ease our busiest route into the city, to make traffic move quickly, and I believe on balance, the impact that will have on buses and bus users will be so minimal and the impact it will have on people who come by car will be substantially positive.
‘It’s a bold decision, but I don’t think it will be forever.’
The move comes after Tory traffic boss Ken Ellcome said at a meeting last month he wanted to keep the bus lane following pressure from bus and cycle campaigners.
But Cllr Jones wasn’t happy with the decision and decided to overturn it.
Jon Spencer, of Portsmouth Cycle Forum, said: ‘We knew this was going to be the decision because Donna already said in The News on February 3 she wanted to remove the bus lane.’
He said in his deputation: ‘The leader has spoken in the press of her concern about the reputational damage to the city of queues.
‘Has she considered the reputational damage to the city of death or serious injury arising from ill-considered and hasty changes to the road system?
‘I will draw your attention to the death of cyclist Daniel Harris, who was killed on recently modified roads near the Olympic Park during the London Games.
‘What if the same happened here during the America’s Cup?’
But Andrew MacDowell, 59, of North End, Portsmouth, hailed the decision.
‘Donna is very courageous and this is in the interests of the majority of people in Portsmouth,’ he said.
‘It’s a victory for the future prosperity of Portsmouth.’
As part of the move, the hatched markings at the top and bottom of the lane will be trimmed back to allow people to manoeuvre easier.
The move is expected to cost £11,000 and will come out of the council’s parking reserves.
New signs will be put in at Rudmore roundabout informing drivers of the new layout.
The removal of the bus lane is being done on a trial basis for the next six months before a review is carried out.
Click here to watch a video of Cllr Jones explaining her decision.