Transport for London says the plan will help the capital get "back on its feet".
The organisation in charge of London’s main roads says it is planning “24/7” bus lanes to help people get around after the coronavirus crisis. According to Transport for London (TfL), the change will apply to the capital’s busiest roads, and will help keep people on the move as lockdown measures are lifted.
Under the proposals, drivers in the capital will essentially see some bus lane hours extended so the existing lanes are in operation all day, every day. This, TfL says, will “guard against a damaging car-led recovery” by improving bus journey times, as well as increasing safety both for those on public transport and for those travelling by bike.
The organisation, which is run by the Mayor of London’s office, also says the all day, every day approach will work with the shift away from travelling at peak times. It is also hoped that improving journey times will coax people out of cars and onto buses, which can carry 10 times the average occupancy of a car, even with social distancing measures in place.
As before, bicycles, taxis and motorcycles will still be able to use the lanes, while designated disabled parking bays, Blue Badge parking facilities and most loading bays will also be retained as part of the scheme. .
Before the scheme is rolled out on a permanent basis, it will go on trial this summer. The trial period will last for a minimum of six months, after which TfL will get feedback from passenger representative groups, the business sector, and accessibility and inclusion groups, as well as road safety and road user groups.
Claire Mann, the director of bus operations at TfL, said the trial would help TfL tweak its network and adjust to the challenges of working with coronavirus in circulation.
“This pandemic has changed the way we all live, work and travel,” she said. “For that reason, we need to adapt our network, be flexible and continue to help people travel safely and reliably as London gets back on its feet.
"The proposed changes to the operational hours of bus lanes will have significant benefits for bus passengers and people cycling beyond the current hours of operation, many of which were introduced years ago in a very different situation. We will carefully consider all feedback to ensure the trial has the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people and supports London's recovery from coronavirus."
Tim Bellenger, director of policy and investigation at London TravelWatch, welcomed the move, saying the change would cut journey times and improve the reliability of buses.
"Bus passengers will welcome this initiative to improve bus speeds, reduce journey times and improve service reliability,” he said. “This is something that London TravelWatch has called for over a number of years, most recently in our recent Mayoral transport priorities. We look forward to working with TfL as they progress this work."