Northampton bus lanes could be opened to private hire vehicles
Northamptonshire Country Councillors are backing a proposal to open up the county’s under-used bus lanes to taxis, motorcycles and even multiple-occupant private cars. The move has been welcomed by local private hire operators, who have called for the scheme to be adopted across the UK.
The authority’s cabinet member for transport, Councillor Heather Smith said: “We’ve got to make the best use of the road space we have, and when you have bus lanes that are standing empty, this sounds like a sensible solution. I imagine the only people who might object to it would be the bus companies, but we’ll have to go out to public consultation to find out what they think.”
Kevin Willsher, chairman of the Northamptonshire Private Hire Association, said the move would really help taxi operators: “It should be very positive for all drivers. We all know that half the time, bus lanes are standing empty. So it’s good the council is thinking about it. It’s definitely the way forward and it would be nice to see it rolled out nationally,” he said.
In its suggestion for the scheme, the council has said the use of the lanes would be monitored by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. Cllr Smith said: “There will always be some people who break the rules, so if we bring it in we may also have to look at introducing the cameras.”
The idea of opening up the county’s bus lanes has been suggested in a far-reaching document which outlines transport plans for the coming year. It is due to be put out for public consultation soon and could be introduced by April.
Bus lanes have been the subject of controversy in London, where London black cabs are allowed to use them, but private hire vehicles are not. But leading private hire operator Addison Lee has challenged the rule, and this has contributed to Transport Secretary Philip Hammond’s decision to close the M4 bus lane from Heathrow Airport to Chiswick.