A controversial bus lane is coming back into Wimbledon after the council quashed complaints from critics fear it will endanger lives and rip off motorists.
The bus lane in Hartfield Road, on Wimbledon town centre’s one way system, means car users would only be able to use a single lane when driving past Morrison’s car park on the one-way system during morning and evening rush hours.
The decision, spearheaded by cabinet member for regeneration, Councillor Andrew Judge, was confirmed at an Overview and Scrunity Panel meeting on Wednesday, October 7, angering opposition councillors who claim residents were not consulted properly.
Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said it was “a particularly disappointing decision” and added: “This will not aid sustainable transport nor help buses.
"There is clear evidence this will increase the risk of an accident.
“Local residents will remember that the previous Labour Council used this bus lane as a revenue generator and they will recognise this is the real reason for its re-introduction.”
Councillor claims he was ignored by officer
Councillor Chris Edge, a Conservative councillor for Dundonald ward, said he had not been notified by council officers about when Merton would consult with residents, despite specifically asking about it.
Coun Edge said: “I was very disappointed with the way the meeting went because it strayed off the issue that we weren’t consulted properly about this very important issue.
“As I said at the meeting, I never received notice from council officers about any official consultation about this, despite my emailing them to ask. I think the council needs to get better at how it communicates with elected members.”
The bus lane had been there up until 2009, albeit longer, but was removed by the previous Conservative administration who said it “imposed unreasonable traffic distortion” and fined motorists hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.
Srapping of bus lane was "waste of public money"
But Coun Judge insisted a proper consultation had been done and said he had visited the site earlier this year with Coun Edge and a council officer.
He explained his decision to bring back a shorter bus lane was done on the advice of Transport for London and council officers, unlike the Conservatives who had rejected the same proposal while in office because they were ideologically opposed to bus lanes.
Coun Judge said: “It is apparent from the dictated decision of [former council leader] Councillor David Williams that they had a prejudice against bus lanes per se and were insisting on having their way, against officer advice and without regard to the needs of bus users.
“This was a poor way to make decisions, was detrimental to the public interest and wasted public money.”
He added: “The modified lane that I have decided to introduce was the one advised by consultants in 2005 and recommended by officers.
“It is shorter than the previous lane and only includes a dotted line at Herbert Road, finishes well before Graham Road and begins again after it and finishes well before Beulah Road, so no one genuinely concerned to turn left in the normal manner will incur a penalty.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the bus lane will increase congestion in Wimbledon town centre or be detrimental to road safety as some have claimed.”
What do you think? Is this decision a victory for bus passengers or a recipe for traffic jams? Leave a comment below, call 020 8722 6335 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get all the latest Wimbledon Guardian news by:
...or click here to receive a daily e-mail news bulletin.