In a sensational U-turn from Lancashire County Council, it has tonight announced Preston’s disputed bus lanes are staying.
Only nine days ago, the council said it was scrapping the controversial scheme to uncork the city centre’s tightest traffic bottleneck.
But now after driving motorists around the bend for months has the council announced it has changed its mind again and plans to continue operating the Fishergate bus lane on a trial basis.
The council now says the bus lane, which runs from Mount Street to Corporation Street between 11am and 6pm every day, will remain in operation until it has been formally reviewed.
On December 31, Coun John Fillis, LCC’s cabinet member for highways and transportation said the experimental scheme had “worked” and that it was to be lifted in January.
He now says: ““It’s clear that the changes we introduced had a big effect in reducing traffic levels on Fishergate in the run-up to Christmas.
“Correspondence with local stakeholders suggests that there is a growing consensus that the measures worked. Given that the original plan was to trial the bus lane for up to 18 months, I’ve decided that the bus lane should stay at least until we are able to assess how the changes work at different times of year.
“We normally carry out a formal review of trial orders at the end of the six-month consultation period, which will be in April. Between now and then we will carefully consider the feedback we received from businesses and the public.
“Once we’ve looked carefully at the positives and negatives that have come from these changes, we’ll consider the next steps.
“The cameras are still in operation, so people will receive a PCN if they use these bus lanes when they shouldn’t.
“As we’ve said previously, we definitely don’t want to issue any £60 Penalty Charge Notices, but it’s an important way for us to enforce these changes. The aim is to help to reduce traffic build-up that has affected parts of the city centre at the busiest times.”
The bus/taxi lanes were only brought in on an experimental basis on October 31. The plan was to see how they helped speed up traffic flow by removing vehicles between the hours of 11am and 6pm, seven days a week.
For the first two weeks drivers caught contravening the rules were sent warning letters. But by mid-November the letters turned to fine notices, with around 8,000 being dished out in the first week alone. One motorist caught out by staged a protest with placards warning other drivers.
The council insists the changes to traffic management between Mount Street and Corporation Street are still on a trial basis - “In line with its original plans”.
It also says the new bus lane at the Butler Street junction with Fishergate is a permanent change. There are no plans to remove it.