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Exclusive: End of line for bus lay-bys?

Driving in parts of Liverpool just got slower, reports Larry Neild

Published on February 7th 2011.

Exclusive: End of line for bus lay-bys?

IS it the end of the road for the bus lay-by in Liverpool?

Work has just finished on removing the double-length lay-by in busy Aigburth Road, close to Lark Lane. Less than a mile away a second lay-by is being removed at Aigburth Vale.

Now buses will stop in the main carriageway to board. This will end the problem of delays when they have to pull out of lay-bys, but mean that everybody else will have to wait behind or file into the outside lane.

The London scheme infuriated motoring organisations who claimed it would increase congestion, pollution and road rage as drivers sat in queues waiting for the buses to move off again

Motorists are bound to slam this strategy as highway robbery. But it is to make life easier and safer for hundreds of city bus drivers, Merseytravel told Liverpool Confidential – and, in some cases, to slow traffic down intentionally.

Steve Cook, of Merseytravel, told us: “During the 60s and 70s, the philosophy was to get buses off the main through-route of the carriageway when stopping, to avoid disturbing traffic flows and to allow passengers to board and alight away from the main stream of traffic. Hence the profusion of lay-bys built on new highways in this era, many on relatively low traffic-flow residential roads.

“However when traffic levels increased, they often became a problem for bus operation as buses often experienced difficulty getting back into the stream of traffic. (nobody would let them out, ed).

“Consequently where it has been safe and practical to do so, we have sought to remove them.”

Merseytravel says the removal of bus lay-bys is in line with other transport authorities and Department for Transport guidance - and their disappearance, it seems, is not new.

It has been removing lay-bys for some time now, as more of us have turned to the car for a faster way of getting around.

Said Mr Cook: “Each site is reviewed on its merits. A lay-by will be retained if there are good highway safety reasons. For instance, a relatively fast road where having the bus out of the general traffic stream is prudent.

“Conversely in a district centre where everyone, including the police and local highway authority, want to slow traffic down, stationary buses, loading passengers, can act as traffic calming measures.”

They will, he said, normally remain at a terminus or at a significant timing point where a bus is likely to stand for a short period to recover time.

Reaction from many Merseyside motorists is likely to echo that when Greater London Transport decided to scrap bus pull-ins a few years ago.

The London scheme infuriated motoring organisations who claimed it would increase congestion, pollution and road rage as drivers sat in queues waiting for the buses to move off again.

They slammed the idea as anti-car and anti-common sense.

"You don't need a special study to work out the effects of filling in bus stop lay-bys - more traffic jams, more pollution and more angry motorists,” the RAC Foundation said.

“Why is it that so many proposals aimed at tackling the transport crisis are based on making life more miserable for people who choose to drive their own cars?"

Driving along Kensington or Smithdown, it is amazing to see the number of cars who cheekily beat the queue by nipping into the bus lane.

Meanwhile, thousands of drivers have found to their £60 cost the consequences of wandering into bus lanes in Lime Street and St John’s Lane.

Liverpool’s main routes have become increasingly clogged in recent years – two football grounds, Liverpool One, the arena - but will motorists beat the extra waits they will face by leaving the car at home and hopping on the bus instead?

Or will they sit reading endless adverts for compensation lawyers on the grimy backs of buses – fuming as time ticks away?

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Bit fed upFebruary 2nd 2011.

These buses are a menace. I would get one, but they don't go where I go without going all over Liverpool first. I want to travel in a straight line to work, so I will continue to use the car.

commuterFebruary 2nd 2011.

About time too and well done Merseytravel. I am always willing to let buses leave lay-bys, but most motorists don't bother. With more congested roads and more rising fuel costs more or us want to switch to public transport. That means public transport has to become more reliable and efficient and user friendly. I can well imagine the extra minutes added on to every journey by buses waiting to rejoin the main road.
I'd go one further. Aigburth Road is two lanes in each direction. Why not make one lane eah way a bus lane, 24/7. We must make bus travel quicker and more attractive. Removing bus lay bys is a very good start. I will be one of those inconvenienced, but I know I have an alternative.

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2011.

We need better regulation of buses, similar to what happens in London. At peak times our roads are overrun with buses, usually from rivals competing on the same route. Then after 6 most disappear. If we had proper regulation we could have a good bus service day and night. It's not rocket science is it?

Commutation RowFebruary 2nd 2011.

How can they afford this? And how do they square this with the latest mess they are making of Sir Thomas Street?

Narrowing roads by widening pavements that they can't afford to maintain or keep clean seems a daft idea.

I hope the lunatics in the Plannng Department are considered for redundancy.

Stan ButlerFebruary 2nd 2011.

Motorists are SUPPOSED to give way to buses and there's no excuse not to on a slow 30mph road like Aigburth Road. I always let them out.

Why not just catch these selfish turds on cameras and fine them heavily?

AnonymousFebruary 2nd 2011.

Another reason that laybys are being removed are that selfish motorists park in them and buses have to stop in the middle of the road anyway. This means that for a disabled person such as myself I do not have a kerb from which to step on or off the bus but have to struggle from the road! There should be greater enforcement of parking laws against such selfish people. They should be glad they are able to walk a couple of hundred yards to a shop instead of insisting that they park directly ourside to the detriment of other road and pavement users!

DarrenFebruary 3rd 2011.

This is just dangerous and stupid. It is yet again forcing drivers to drive head on into each other. Everybody knows that the worst type of accident where major fatalities occur is when drivers are forced onto each others road side and hit each other head on. By removing bus lanes you are making drivers cross to the opposite side of the road and risk a head on collision, and it might not be the driver who attempts to overtake the bus who checked and pulled out safely, it could be the fault of the person travelling too fast in the opposite direction. Or when you get bus drivers who don't check their rear view mirrors before pulling off and go straight into the side of the overtaking vehicle, I've had a few near misses with buses doing this.

DarrenFebruary 3rd 2011.

btw - re - anonymous - about cars parking in the laybys - if you think that's bad go into Warrington and look at Wilderspool Causeway, the bus lane on that stretch of A49 has to be the most useless in the world. It is only open for about 2 hours a day, and all the time the residents use it as a free car park, even when it's in operation. Absolutely no point at all. And yet you never see a traffic warden ticketing the cars for parking in the bus lane during operational hours, their too busy sticking tickets on drivers who have made a genuine mistake and been mislead by inaccurate signage in the town.

on your bike!February 3rd 2011.

Surely the traffic lights before the Aigburth Rd lay by stop traffic sufficiently and regularly for buses to get out? A hackney driver friend of mine reckons traffic jams disappear throughout the city when bus drivers strike! Have you noticed the regular queues of a dozen buses or more on Lime St waiting to turn into St John's Lane, with some cheeky drivers queue jumping on inside lane!?

Jack HarperFebruary 3rd 2011.

These sorts of measures don't just slow down, inconvenience and endanger the poor old motorists as ton-up Larry is keen to emphasise.

Bus passengers themselves are delayed by narrow, congested roads and bus travel is MORE expensive than driving these days, despite what whingeing motorists say.

Buses are a good thing generally but they are only at their best when they are regulated, attractively-priced and able to operate on proper main roads and not being diverted down narrow back streets with sharp turns at the whim of some planner who has obviously not been on a bus for years.

Many modern unregulated bus services (particularly in Wirral) seem to be designed to supply sightseeing trips to people with passes and plenty of time on their hands.

The fares charged to passengers paying with actual money (when they aren´t turned off for not having the right change that is) are ruinously high, and travellers who actually want to get somewhere directly and promptly - such as commuters - seem to be a low priority. Often if there is more than one passenger in a party a private hire taxi is no more expensive and a lot quicker for many journeys.

AnonymousFebruary 3rd 2011.

Why do we keep calling buses PUBLIC transport, all bus companies are private,profit making enterprises. I would love to know how many shares these planners have in Stagecoach and Arriva. Why should the motorist be penalised by bus companies, they don't even employ a Conductor any longer, that would at least get the buses moving quicker, how much fuel is being wasted by these delays to motorists. The Big Dig was a Big Con, once it was easy to drive in Liverpool, not any longer. It is time for motorist to fight back, for a start demand that these planners are made redundant, they will not be missed and the money saved can go on the Health Service. The roads were better 10 years ago, how much money is being wasted on these bus stops, if some-one is on a bus, they are not in a hurry. I read in the Echo that the Boss of Merseytravel, Neil Scales, lives in Manchester and drives to Liverpool in a 4x4, so much for practice what you preach. Look out for NS 24 and give him a toot on the horn.

Jack HarperFebruary 3rd 2011.

Anonymous wrote: "if some-one is on a bus, they are not in a hurry."

They are if they are going to work, or trying to catch the shops or visiting time at a hospital!

Not everyone has a car you know!

My point above is that whimsically circuitous bus routes are a time-wasting hindrance to bus passengers who want to get somewhere reasonably promptly rather than be stuck on a bus in a heavily congested junction so they they can be taken on a scenic trip aound the inside of some ludicrously-configured bus station before resuming their journey to work or wherever.

HooterFebruary 4th 2011.

Time for the motorists to strike back at this daft idea. When stuck behind a stationary bus all drivers should sound their horns continuously while they are held up as a protest.

DigsyFebruary 4th 2011.

Darren is right. Whilst in an ideal world traffic will be "calmed" as it sits happily behind the stationary bus, back in the real world infuriated motorists will either take risks with oncoming cars to get by or force themselves dangerously into the offside lane - which no-one will let them in to, causing more irate drivers. Angry motorists do not make for safe, observant motorists and it seems we are putting the safety of pedestrians and road users a poor second to the schedules of the private bus companies.

Fan of LazFebruary 4th 2011.

I see the BBC and rest of the media has picked up Liverpool Confidential's exclusive now. Well done Larry. Keep leadin the way, but don't block the friggin road.

From the BBCFebruary 4th 2011.

Merseytravel's removal of bus lay-bys is 'madness'

Removing lay-bys for buses in Liverpool is "municipal madness", a city councillor has said.

Critics say the decision by Merseytravel will lead to an increase in congestion on Merseyside.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Eddie Clein said the authority should have consulted local councillors.

Merseytravel, which regulates public transport on Merseyside, said removing the lay-bys was a response to Department of Transport guidelines.

Angry motorists

One of the first lay-bys to be removed was in Abbey Road, Childwall.

Mr Clein, who represents Childwall, said: "This is absolute municipal madness - it is a project that was never discussed with local councillors.

"They [Merseytravel] did give some undertakings they were going to make some alterations because of health and safety issues of passengers getting on and off... they never came back to us.

"They started around Christmas with all the cold weather - what they have done is a complete nightmare."

Merseytravel said it was difficult for buses to get back into the traffic flow and that lay-bys also attracted illegal parking.

The RAC Foundation said the effects of filling in bus lay-bys would be more traffic jams, more pollution and more angry motorists.

Deryck GuylerSeptember 27th 2011.

Why don't the police and 'parking attendants' enforce the law concerning parking in bus stops, bus lanes, etc.? If they can't be bothered to do it in person they can use CCTV cameras.

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