Scrapping the controversial M4 bus lane has saved 60 seconds on a journey into London according to interim figures from the Highways Agency.
The bus lane was introduced in 1999 by John Prescott and quickly became viewed as one of the symbols of Labour's so-called 'war on the motorist' before being removed in 2010. The 60 second saving was calculated using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to compare the length of journeys between January and June 2011 and the same period in 2010. The argument as to whether the bus lane reduced congestion or not was hotly debated - Prescott claimed it reduced jams while AA road policy head Paul Watters said it merely 'relocated a queue'. It also angered operators of private hire vehicles as only black cabs were allowed to use the lane.
A Transport Committee report on congestion published in September examined time savings made by removing the M4 bus lane and concluded that there was not yet enough data to justify either permanent removal or reintroduction. The Highways Agency are still carrying out data analysis and aim to provide a full year's review in 2012, just as the bus lane is reinstated temporarily for the Olympics.