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Petition launched by councillor to scrap New Hall Lane bus lane

Posted on - 20th May, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston Council, Preston News, Ribbleton, Roads, Transport
The route on New Hall Lane
The route on New Hall Lane

A councillor has urged highways bosses to ditch plans for a new bus lane on a busy route into Preston – warning that it will have “far-reaching consequences” for the flow of traffic.

Suleman Sarwar, who represents the St. Matthew’s ward on Preston City Council, has told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) he plans to launch a petition to block the introduction of the bus-only restriction on New Hall Lane. The petition is now live on Change.org and there’s also a petition on the Lancashire County Council petitions site.

Lancashire County Council’s cabinet last week gave the green light to the £100,000 scheme, which will operate on the Preston-bound side of the route – the A59 – between Fishwick Parade and Witton Street. The authority says the existing lanes will be narrowed and maintained for non-bus traffic in both directions.

Read more: Preston bus station information office to reopen and services to be given new timetables

As the LDRS revealed, only three objections were received in response to a public consultation into the proposal which was carried out earlier this year.

However, in correspondence sent to the county council’s cabinet member for highways and transport Rupert Swarbrick, Cllr Suleman says he has been “overwhelmed with messages from concerned residents” since the project was approved.

“It is evident that many members of our community share my reservations about this decision. New Hall Lane serves as a vital artery connecting Preston city centre to the motorway – and any disruption to its flow of traffic will have far-reaching consequences,” Cllr Suleman wrote.

“The potential for increased congestion during peak times is not just a theoretical concern; it is a reality that we, as residents who navigate these streets daily, understand all too well.

“I urge Lancashire County Council to reconsider its approval of the bus lane and provide transparency regarding the research or testing that was conducted prior to its authorisation. Without concrete evidence that this scheme will alleviate traffic congestion rather than exacerbate it, proceeding with its implementation would be irresponsible.

“Preston is not Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Bristol, or any other major city. Please reconsider and carefully consider the implications of your actions.”

Cllr Suleman also expressed dismay that a call from the Friends of Fishwick and St. Matthew’s Community Group to trial the new bus lane using temporary barriers had not been taken on board.

In cabinet papers responding to the suggestion, County Hall highways officers said that the scheme was “not suitable” for such an “experimental” approach – adding that the lane had been designed to be “lawful, safe and enforceable”.

The facility will become the city’s ninth bus lane or bus gate when it is installed in the autumn.

Responding to Cllr Suleman’s concerns, County Cllr Swarbrock told the LDRS: “As part of our initial allocation of £30.4m Bus Service Improvement Plan funding, the western end of New Hall Lane was identified as a location where the carriageway was wide enough so that a bus lane could be constructed, while maintaining a two-way carriageway for general vehicles.

“The aim of the scheme is to improve public transport journey times and timetable reliability by reallocating the carriageway width to create a lane dedicated for use by buses and cycles exclusively.

“This will allow public transport to move more seamlessly through the junction, allowing buses to bypass congestion and cut journey times, particularly during peak travel periods.

“We have listened to residents’ views during the public consultation and properly scrutinised all of the points made by those who objected.

“However, our assessment that the impact of this on other road users will be minimal as the width of New Hall Lane will allow for the creation of a bus lane alongside the existing traffic lanes.

“Taking everything into consideration, I am confident this scheme is viable and will prove to be a success once implemented.

“When viewed alongside the other schemes as part of the £41.9m Bus Service Improvement Plan funding from the UK Government, including the recently announced Phase 3 funding, residents can look forward to a better bus network across Lancashire,” County Cllr Swarbrick added.

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