Figures suggest that motorists in London on the M4 have shortened their journey times by shaving 60 seconds off their commutes after a controversial bus lane was scrapped.
The general public was able to use the motorway’s third lane again, after it was reopened a year ago, which was described by the then Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond as “a piece of folly”.
The impact of the bus lane’s closure will be reviewed by the Highways Agency, which will be published in 2012.
The interim figures were in a reply to a written parliamentary question.
Only motorcycles, buses and black taxis with private hire taxi insurance, were allowed to us the bus lane which ran for 3.5 miles between central London and Heathrow airport, which was introduced by John Prescott in 1999.
The bus lane earned the nickname the “Blair lane” after the former prime minister used it to avoid heavy traffic and during its 11 years, the bus lane was also criticised for rarely being used.
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson called the lane as being “idiotic” and speaking last year, Hammond called it symbolic of Labour’s “war on the motorist”.
However, Prescott argued that research had proved that the bus lane reduced traffic jams along the M4.
An estimated cost of £400,000 since its closure, journey time savings for cars were “in the order of 60 seconds”, said the Transport Minister, Mike Penning.
The Highways Agency calculated this by comparing journeys captured on camera between January and June this year and the same time period in 2010.
The bus lane is going to be temporarily restored for the London Olympics in 2012, and then more likely scrapped altogether once the games has finished.
The head of road policy for the AA, Paul Watters, said “The bus lane was a symbol of an era that was trying to make motorists out to be an unnecessary evil on the road.”
Watters said it had failed to encourage new bus services to open up and that it merely relocated a queue.
He said that the 60-second saving for drivers was “marginal” and was happy to see it go.
“It’s more of a psychological benefit – they feel better not seeing some traffic sailing past them or an empty lane.”
However, he said that morning rush hour commutes into central London remained a lottery that it could only be solved by a major programme to increase road capacity.
“It would probably be worth doing in economic terms, but politically it would be considered a construction scheme too far.”