Priority bus lanes to return to Liverpool ten years after being scrapped

Liverpool Council hopes the new priority lanes will help make public transport more attractive, quicker and easier.
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Bus lanes are set to return to Liverpool’s roads, despite being scrapped almost 10 years ago.

Liverpool City Council’s senior leadership has adopted a new plan which will lead to the readoption of five routes across the city to give buses priority on the roads. Part of a four year transport plan, the idea was endorsed by the cabinet on Tuesday evening, marking the first step towards reintroducing bus lanes a decade on from when they were first mooted to be removed.

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Back in October 2014, then-Mayor Joe Anderson pressed ahead with plans to do away with bus lanes throughout the city following a year-long trial, which he said identified that dedicated lanes for public transport were not benefitting the city as planned. The new Labour administration will now seek to reverse that decision between now and 2027.

Potential Liverpool bus lanes

As part of the wide-ranging transport plan, a series of lanes have been identified that will be adopted as the authority seeks to encourage people to choose public transport over their cars.

This will incorporate the busiest areas in the wider city region, including the 10A Liverpool to St Helens, the 86 from Liverpool to Speke and John Lennon Airport, the 53 service from Liverpool to Bootle and Crosby, the 79 route from Liverpool to Halewood and Widnes, as well as the 20/21 from Liverpool to Kirkby, Tower Hill.

Cllr Dan Barrington, Liverpool Council deputy leader and cabinet member for transport and connectivity, said while bus lanes had “stolen the headlines” the city was seeking to encourage public transport as a measure to address the climate crisis locally. Confirming the council’s move, he said: “Yes, we are bringing back bus lanes.”

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Priority bus lanes could return to Liverpool streets almost a decade after scrap. Photo: Hullian OneEleven via Wikimedia Commons.Priority bus lanes could return to Liverpool streets almost a decade after scrap. Photo: Hullian OneEleven via Wikimedia Commons.
Priority bus lanes could return to Liverpool streets almost a decade after scrap. Photo: Hullian OneEleven via Wikimedia Commons.

Upgrades to public transport

The programme will be developed in partnership with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (LCRCA) and would provide what the city council describes as “transformational improvements” to deliver faster, more reliable and greener journeys. The five new lanes would provides dedicated road space for bus and active travels, as well as upgrades being made to junctions to give buses priority.

Traffic signals, bus stops and shelters would also be upgraded in a bid to reflect bus priority. Improvements to stops would aim to improve accessibility as well as speeding up boarding and alighting.

Currently, 62% of journeys across Merseyside are taken by car. The city council hopes the wide-ranging four year plan can shift attitudes away from getting behind the wheel.

However, former Mayor Joe Anderson slammed the idea last week. On social media, he said: “It will make no difference whatsoever the massive increase in the number of cars, is the problem creating another barrier to the flow of traffic will add to congestion not solve it. There is no evidence to suggest the removal of bus lanes has caused delays or congestion.”

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What has been said?

  • Cllr Ruth Bennett, deputy leader and cabinet member for finances, resources and transformation, said she had “happy tears” when she read the plan. She added: “I’ve spent seven years nagging to get bus lanes back in Netherley on the 79 route. I’m in an area that relies heavily on public transport and is only bus services. Removal of the bus lanes made a difference and added to people’s travel time.”

Cllr Bennett said a lack of bus lanes had placed “additional pressures” in the area and impacted commutes to schools and workplaces.

  • Cllr Harry Doyle added: “It takes 45 minutes from James Street to Chester by train but it’s a lot longer to the city centre from Dovecot.
  • “That’s just not right.” Cabinet member for growth and economy, Cllr Nick Small, added how the adoption of bus lanes would bolster the city centre, Wavertree and Netherley corridor, adding it “can only be a good thing.”

Cllr Small said the new priority lanes would help make public transport more attractive, quicker and easier which would prove to be better for the city’s economy.

  • Council leader Liam Robinson said in his own ward of Kensington and Fairfield, 60% of people cannot afford a car and public transport must become “a first choice, not a last resort.”

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