Joe Anderson’s folly: why scrapping Liverpool’s bus lanes will lead to more congestion, not less

Followers on Twitter and transport geeks will be aware that Liverpool’s directly-elected mayor, Joe Anderson, recently decided to scrap bus lanes in the city.

Anderson claims that bus lanes “simply don’t work“, adding that “we have looked at it over six to seven months and we feel it makes no improvement to the traffic flow in the city.”

I assume he’s referring to the ‘royal’ we, as I’ve seen little to suggest there’s been a serious consultation. I can find no evidence of consultation with experts nor, in fact, the bus company Arriva who have written to all 90 councillors opposing the decision. Arriva carry 80 million passengers by bus in the region and in 2005, 82 per cent of public transport journeys were made by bus, so it’s safe to say they have some experience in the area.

There’s already been a fair bit of coverage around this controversial decision, many quoting the displeasure of a Green Councillor, Coyne who said “It goes against everything that is sensible about transport thinking“.

Unfortunately, no journalist goes into this in more detail. I did some searching and, while I’m not familiar with the specific problems in Liverpool during peak hours, but I did find some pretty basic theories of road transport applicable to this situation that support Coyne’s statement.

Bus lanes exist to allow buses priority because a single bus transports more people than cars for the same amount of road space. A double-decker can hold 64-90 people, whilst a single-decker can hold 48-80. Go browse Arriva’s fleet.

Remix of the 'Car, Bus, Bike' poster by Matt Wiebe, used under Creative Commons 2.0-BY-NC

Scrapping bus lanes might allow slightly more car traffic to flow, but it is inevitable that buses be slowed and the timetable disrupted. Remember, the timetable and frequency will all have been planned with the knowledge that bus lanes are in operation.

Furthemore, studies have shown that the more road space you supply, the more traffic uses it. This is called induced demand and was recognised by J.J. Leeming, a British road traffic engineer who described it in his 1969 book. More modern studies have also confirmed this, going so far as to suggest a “fundamental law of road congestion“:

“[That] the number vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) increases in direct proportion to the available lane-kilometers of roadways. The additional VKT traveled come from increased driving by current residents and businesses, and migration.”

So potentially, all Mayor Joe Quimby Anderson has achieved is:

    1. scrapped bus lanes to slow down bus user’s journeys
    2. increased the amount of road space for even more traffic to congest Liverpool city centre

..all because he believes bus lanes “don’t work”.

Range Rovers all round!

Steam hauled train service returns to Manchester Piccadilly train station

A special passenger service from London, “The Palatine”, pulled in at around 1.30 pm this afternoon having left London Euston at around 8 am. Hauled by an A4 class locomotive 60019 Bittern, capable of speeds of up to 100 mph, it travelled along the West Coast Main line, passing through Watford Junction, Northampton, Crewe and Stockport before arriving on time at Platform 8. 

This unique service was met with excitement by scores of railway enthusiasts and passers-by, who were surprised and delighted to see this 1930s designed train alongside a modern Pendolino, themselves introduced in the 2000s. 

The locomotive, Bittern is of the same class as the famous Mallarddesigned by Sir Nigel Gresley and which still holds the official world speed record for a steam locomotive. It was specially fitted with a double tender so as to make today’s 5.5 hour journey without stopping for additional water.

The train was available for viewing at the platform until 2 pm when it was returned to the depot. This evening’s return journey will be hauled by diesel traction.

Today sees two steam locomotive events in the Manchester area. Earlier, a special train in aid of the Help for Heroes charity passed through Manchester Victoria station on the way from Lancaster to York. It will pass through again on its return at approximately 7.30 pm