Sometimes you just have to pinch yourself in Liverpool to be sure that something is happening because you cannot believe what you see, hear or read.
So I took a large piece of flesh (mind your own business) and pinched when word reached me that the Mayor of Liverpool had singlehandedly decided to abolish bus lanes in Liverpool. True it is only for an experimental 9 month period but as all the signs are being taken down and every piece of road marking grubbed out it looks pretty permanent to me.
So who has he consulted on this latest absurd folly? No-one. The bus operators, the taxi drivers, the pedestrians, the car drivers, the cyclists and even the Passenger Transport Authority woke up one morning to find it reported in the paper.
What evidence has the Liverpool Rhino as he blunders through the jungle? Absolutely none. When officers are questioned about the so-called report which was prepared they shuffle, look embarrassed and shifty. It’s no wonder because they have been asked to make a silk purse out of Joe Anderson’s sow’s ear and it just cannot be done. There is no base line for any of the suggestions contained in the report about whether safety has improved or not; whether bus usage is up or not; if cycling has increased or not; if air quality has improved or not. In fact there is no real evidence at just a lot of sleight of hand manipulations as officers have desperately tried to cover up this major blunder by Anderson.
Let me be clear that we Lib Dems have no problem with a review of the bus lanes and cycle lanes as well where they are different. As I made clear in my Mayoral campaign last year the cycle lanes are often in the wrong places and therefore not used. I suspect that the same applies to some of the bus lanes as well. So if a report had come forward suggesting a systematic review of the bus and cycle lanes then we would have welcomed such a review. But this is not evidence based – it is prejudice based. Anderson doesn’t like cycles or cyclists and he doesn’t like buses. Perhaps they get in the way of his limo!?
What do we know about places where bus lanes have been removed?
• Bus journey times go up
• Taxi journey times and consequent expense of fares – goes up
• Air pollution goes up
• Cycling accidents – go up
• Pedestrian accidents – go up
These things have happened wherever good bus lanes have been removed.
No studies have been prepared for these changes. At a time of great financial problems Anderson has found more than £500,000 to remove signs and road markings. That money has come out of the pothole money which is desperately needed throughout the city. At least £500,000 of revenue will be lost from the fines less costs which the lanes produce – all of which legally must be ploughed back into road improvement. We will probably have to pay back UK and EU grants which were given for these projects but no-one knows how much because no-one has asked the question.
Anderson will continue to whinge about Government cuts whilst making unnecessary expenditure which will add nothing to local life.
Today Norman Baker has sent him a letter pointing out all these things and more. In his usual contemptuous way Anderson has rejected the request from the Minister to think again and look properly at all. Accusing the Minister of toy town politics he fails to reply to any of the points that the Minister makes.
His craven bunch of councillors will, of course, support him although many of them are in seething but quiet revolt. Where are the Liverpool Labour members of the MPTA on this issue? Doing exactly what they are told because they want to keep their seats and allowances!
The bus operators, the taxi drivers and owners and the travelling public are looking at ways to fight back. The Liberal Democrats will support them every inch of the way.