The Benefits of Bus Priority Within the Central London Congestion Charging Zone

The Benefits of Bus Priority Within the Central London Congestion Charging Zone


K Gardner, T Melhuish, D McKenna and T Rice, Transport for London, UK


The aim of this paper: To forward the case for the continuation of bus priority measures within London?s congestion charging zone.


Issue to be discussed: The compatibility of Bus Priority measures and Congestion Charging in London

Improved bus services deliver increases in overall public transport capacity thereby easing the travel situation for journeys into the congestion charging zone. These improvements are designed to complement congestion charging and provide a credible alternative to journeys into the capital by car, underground or rail.

Transport for London (TfL) believes that bus priority measures and bus lanes in particular, remain a vital intervention tool within central London and the congestion charging area. Furthermore, case study data supports the assertion that bus lanes are justified and are working as intended.

The bus network plays a vital role in the Capital's transport system, providing access to jobs and town centres, the Underground and rail services. In order to encourage car users to switch to using public transport, people's experience of travelling by bus must be transformed: the chronic problems of unreliability and slow journeys have to be tackled.

Increasing population and employment levels, combined with improvements to the public transport system, have seen bus patronage increase by 38.2% since 1999/2000. Over a 3rd of London households do not own a car and rely heavily on the public transport network, and with a predicted rise in London?s population levels from 7.2 million to 8.1 million by 2016 it is imperative that the benefits of bus priority measures are locked in now to ensure protection for the future prosperity of London and its residents.

Suggestions have been made that as the congestion charging scheme has contributed to a reduction in traffic volumes, further bus priority measures may no longer be necessary. TfL believe that buses will continue to require protection from delays and congestion at busy locations, where other transport interventions have reduced vehicular capacity and, to support other objectives. In addition, the Mayor?s Local Implementation Plan (LIP) Guidance July 2004 includes a requirement for boroughs to include proposals in their LIP?s to demonstrate delivery of high levels of bus priority on ?A? roads and busy bus routes, many of which run through or near the congestion charging zone.

Bus lanes are important to mitigate the adverse impacts of other traffic management schemes on buses, in particular, safety schemes and all-round pedestrian crossing phases. They can also be used to offer additional benefits such as improved lane discipline, as in the Westminster City council, Haymarket scheme, outlined below.

Westminster City Council implemented a number of bus lanes (Kingsway, Waterloo Bridge north, Waterloo Bridge south and Haymarket) using experimental powers before the commencement of congestion charging. Before and after case study data, clearly shows that in three out of four
corridors, the mean bus running time reduced after the implementation of bus lanes and congestion charging. It should be noted that the fourth scheme (Haymarket) was implemented to improve lane discipline and reduce accidents. Initial findings are that this objective was achieved as accidents along this route reduced by 66%

Additionally, traffic queue lengths were measured on Kingsway, Waterloo Bridge north and Waterloo Bridge south to verify the running time benefits that had been attributed to these bus lanes. Queue data for Kingsway and Waterloo Bridge northbound, indicates that the bus lane is effective in enabling buses to by-pass general traffic queues. The case for Waterloo Bridge southbound was more marginal as traffic queues only occasionally exceeded the bus lane setback distance. However, due to proposals to introduce signals at the IMAX roundabout for road safety reasons, queue lengths are predicted to increase on this link, but the movement of buses will be protected by the extant bus lane.

London boroughs remain satisfied that bus priority schemes are still justified and are appropriate solutions to consider where traffic conditions, either now or in the future, will worsen for buses and their passengers. Furthermore, the number of buses, cyclists and taxis has also increased within the congestion charging zone increasing the scale of user benefits and providing additional justification for bus priority measures.

Finally, recent figures indicate that people have begun to absorb the cost of driving in the congestion charging zone and traffic volumes are increasing once again. This therefore substantiates the view that bus priority should continue to be introduced within the congestion charging zone.


Association for European Transport