Agenda item

Petition Update - Private Hire access to Kings Road & Duke Street Bus Lanes

A report providing the Sub-Committee with an update to the petition presented at the September 2022 Traffic Management Sub-Committee, following the receipt of further information from the lead petitioner.


Further to Minute 16(a) of the previous meeting, the Executive Director of Economic Growth and Neighbourhood Services submitted a report providing an update to the petition for private hire vehicle use of Kings Road and Duke Street following the receipt of further information form the lead petitioner.  The report recommended against pursuing the change to the access exemptions in these bus lanes at the current time, set out the reasons and recommended that consideration of bus lane access be carried out as part of a further strategic evaluation, in the context of local and national strategic priorities and policy, including the Local Transport Plan, Bus Service Improvement Plan and Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans.

The report explained that following the previous meeting the lead petitioner had provided further information to the Council, reporting the local challenges that existed regarding the challenges with educational establishment recruiting school transport drivers.  In addition to the lengthy application process, it being suggested that potential drivers were finding it unappealing to apply for the limited work particularly when the vehicles were having to use general traffic lanes and contend with the associated traffic.  It was also suggested that allowing private hire access to these bus lanes would contribute to expedited journeys for school transport providers and make this work more appealing, thus improving the level of service.  It was proposed further that many bus lanes in the Borough were being used by Oxfordshire plated vehicles that had been licensed as Hackney Carriages, but were mostly carrying out executive industry work. 

Some of the Borough’s bus lanes permitted access by other vehicle types, such as motorcycles and taxis, including private hire vehicles, and officers were separately aware of requests for wider access by these vehicle types.  Enabling a wider range of vehicle access would increase the volumes of traffic using the bus lanes and it would inevitably have an impact on the effectiveness of the lanes for its core purpose, increasing the length of bus journey times.  This would also risk creating barriers to cycling by adding the level of traffic. 

The report stated that it was important that such recommendation for change were made appropriately and in line with local and national policies and strategies.  It was an additional concern of officers that adding vehicles to the Kings Road outbound bus lane might risk additional contribution to casualty incidents along the route, as there would be a speed differential against general traffic lanes at busier times and the vehicles would be lower in profile compared to buses.  The petitioner had also made reference to recent changes to the Kings Road inbound bus lane access, but the report noted that the outcome of the changes was a reduction in access over the previous restriction.

Changes to access would require a change to the Traffic Regulation Order that underlaid each restriction.  This change would require a statutory consultation to be carried out on the new draft order and back office changes to the enforcement software would be required and would need funding and resourcing.  Finally, the report proposed that bus lane access should be considered holistically as part of future strategy work related to the Local Transport Plan, Bus Service Improvement Plan and other policies of the Council.  The outcomes would be submitted to the appropriate Committee.

At the invitation of the Chair Kameran Saddiq addressed the Sub-Committee in favour of private hire vehicle use of Kings Road and Duke Street bus lanes, he was accompanied by his legal representative who also addressed the Sub-Committee.  At the invitation of the Chair Ashif Rasheed, Chair of the Reading Taxi Association, also addressed the Sub-Committee, he spoke against private hire vehicles using the bus lanes.

Resolved –

(1)     That the report be noted;

(2)     That the requested alterations to increase access to the bus lanes are not pursued at this time;

(3)     That a future strategic piece of work be undertaken to consider current and potential alterations across the bus lane network within Reading and noted that while not yet programmed, this would likely be reported initially through Strategic Environment Planning & Transport Committee and/or Policy Committee;

(4)     That the lead petitioner be informed of the decisions of the Sub-Committee, following publication of the agreed minutes of the meeting;

(5)     That no public inquiry be held into the proposals.

(Councillor Ayub declared an interest in the above item on the grounds that he owned a hackney carriage. He left the room and took no part in the discussion or decision making.)

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