A30 bus lane – a challenge to find the right solution

The Eye sat in the front row of Tuesday night’s public meeting at the theatre. The meeting was called to discuss the A30 bus lane and related topics.

Bus laneb

The following is just a few recollections, and certainly isn’t a formal or comprehensive record of the discussions.  You can hear what was actually said by listening to the Surrey Heath Residents blog podcast (http://surreyheath-residents.co.uk/2015/07/22/a30-public-meeting-podcast/).

The meeting was good-natured (though there was a complaint about the ‘bureaucratic’ nature of transport staff in the county council), and well-managed throughout. It was attended by around forty to fifty people. However, it seemed that no-one from the police or the bus company was present.

The initial chair, Cllr David Ivison, summarised the origins of the bus lane; namely that it was intended to improve communication with Farnborough, and he then handed over to David Powell, chair of the Camberley society, to chair the contributions from attendees.

Apparently, money has been allocated to resurface the A30 from the Meadows to the Frimley Road junction. However, work cannot start until the future of the bus lane is resolved.  Formal recommendations are anticipated towards the end of this year.

The Eye was expecting strong opposition to the bus lane, and strong objections to rat-running from local residents. In fact, views were more muted. (With hindsight, it would have been useful to hear explicitly whether communication with Farnborough was still an ‘official’ justification for the bus lane.)

Specific comments about the bus lane were generally predictable. The lane is largely empty of traffic, even at times when it’s open to all vehicles. The main suggested reason for this was inadequate signage, though the need for two lanes to merge into one after the end of the bus lane probably also discourages drivers from using it. Another deterrent might be the poor quality of the road surface in the bus lane. Gantries and flashing signs were suggested as ways of advising drivers to use the lane during permitted hours.  But rather than come to subjective conclusions, a proper study of the situation was recommended.

(The Eye confessed that he rather liked the under-used bus lane outside rush-hours. It was an opportunity to get ahead of queues in the outside lane…)

The biggest concern was the high rate of traffic accidents.  Althought not all these might be attributable to the bus lane, traffic turning right into the Avenue was cited as a major problem, especially when the outer lane was congested and slow moving.  One idea was that such right turns should be banned.

Ways of improving traffic flow were suggested. Adding an extra lane by using RMA land was quickly ruled out as unacceptable and unaffordable. A road tunnel to take additional traffic was proposed but not discussed to any extent. The long-standing aspiration to eliminate on-street parking by the shopping parade in the approach to the Meadows roundabout was said to be achievable without too much difficulty.

Congestion attributed to the bus lane was put forward as encouraging ‘rat-running’. No promising solution to this was proposed; one possible idea was to make The Avenue one-way, but this did not receive much endorsement.

Support was shown from the audience for bus users and for cyclists, and there was no strong demand for doing away with the bus lane. But it was accepted that a substantial ‘holistic’ solution would be much preferred to piecemeal improvements.  The A30 ‘is not fit for purpose’ in its current form.

Cllr Ivison summarised the discussion by saying it had underlined that numerous factors had to be taken into consideration in order to come to the ‘right’ conclusion.  He thanked everyone for attending the meeting.

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