Ambulances, police cars and fire vehicles are now allowed to use bus lanes in London, even when they are not responding to emergencies. That’s after the organisation in charge of the capital’s main roads brought in new rules on Friday, May 19, following a successful trial of the scheme.
The move, intended to reduce congestion on London’s main routes, was trialled with Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation Trust, and Transport for London (TfL) said the trust saw fewer missed appointments, while there was no negative impact on bus journey times. For police and fire vehicles, it’s hoped the change will reduce journey times and allow the emergency services to “provide a better service to all Londoners.”
During the trial, more than 150 non-blue-light patient transport vehicles were given access to around 15 miles of bus lanes in Lambeth, Southwark, Wandsworth and Lewisham for a year from February 2022 to February 2023. TfL says the trial “benefitted patients” who are unable to use public transport, and reduced journey times and delays. It also said the number of missed appointments fell by around 20 percent.
Across London, there are currently 8,000 emergency service vehicles that will now be able to use bus lanes, but TfL has promised to “ensure the bus network is reliable”, having previously announced that more than 50 miles of bus lane on the capital’s busiest roads would be in operation 24 hours a day. TfL has also committed to a further 15 miles of bus lanes, in the hope of increasing average bus speeds by 10 percent.
“Bus lanes have a proven track record of speeding up journeys, and we're delighted to see further benefits in this trial for Guy's and St Thomas' and thousands of its patients,” said Christina Calderato, director of transport strategy and policy at TfL. “We look forward now to more patients across the capital being able to get to their appointments on time and supporting the vital work of the other emergency services, be it a forensics van needing to get to a crime scene or London Fire Brigade equipment needing to be in the right place at the right time.”
Meanwhile Seb Dance, the deputy mayor for transport, said the mayor’s office was delighted to “support” the emergency services.
“Making journeys in the capital quicker and more efficient is a key priority of the Mayor's,” he said. “I'm pleased we've been able to support our colleagues in the emergency services and help improve patients' experience too. We look forward to working with London boroughs to implement it even more widely.”