Why Bitterne Road West?
The Bitterne Road West temporary bus, cycle and taxi lanes form part of Southampton’s Green Transport Recovery Plan to promote sustainable travel throughout the pandemic and in the longer term as traffic rates increase.
- Bitterne Road West is identified as a major bus corridor with 32 buses per hour (2-way). As bus operators are currently required to reduce the passenger numbers on individual buses to accommodate social distancing guidelines, there is a greater chance that buses will be full and that passengers will have to wait longer to catch a bus. The new bus lanes will ensure that public transport providers can operate efficiently and passengers can experience a reliable service while these challenges remain.
While the general advice is currently to avoid public transport where people can, buses still play an important role for key workers and those who do not have access to a car for their essential journeys. Improving bus infrastructure to make bus journeys more reliable and faster is vital to our longer-term recovery and future transport strategy.
Taxis also have an important role to play for people who do not have a car or are not served by local bus services and therefore rely on alternative means of public transport to access essential services and employment. For information on how to protect yourself and others on public transport please visit the My Journey website.
- The corridor is a key route linking Southampton City Centre, Bitterne District Centre, employment in Northam and Centurion Industrial Estates, and residential areas in eastern Southampton, Hedge End and Bursledon.
- Northam Rail Bridge is a major pinch point on the corridor, so the installation of bus lanes will improve the reliability of journey times along the corridor.
- Provides a cycle route along the planned SCN4 corridor and complements the existing SCN3 route via Quayside Road-Chessel Avenue to link to Bursledon Road.
- People have started to cycle more, and we want to encourage people to carry on doing this. The new bus lanes, whilst not a fully segregated cycling facility, do provide an improved cycling environment and support social distancing by offering an alternative to cycling on the narrow shared use pavements on Bitterne Road West and Northam River Bridge.
- Traffic levels on Northam Bridge at the beginning of July were 26% lower than pre-Covid traffic flows in March 2020.
- Average weekday vehicle speeds along Northam Bridge increased by 9.4% from 34mph in March to 37.2mph in June 2020. Vehicle speeds are now an average of 28.1mph on a weekday (July 2020).
- Bus capacity reduced to 24% or approximately 10-seated passengers on a single decker bus and 19 on a double decker.
- High propensity to get people cycling if segregated: 71% of Bike Life respondents support more on-road cycle tracks (Sustrans, Bike Life Southampton report, 2019).
- ‘Normal’ levels of cycle use: Northam River Bridge – 241 cycles (Jun 19).
What is happening?
The scheme includes a temporary 3-metre wide mandatory bus lane in each direction from Lances Hill to Northam River Bridge achieved through the reallocation of road space.
Other features include:
- A break in the bus lane across Bitterne Road Rail Bridge and at some junctions to maintain capacity.
- Taxis and cyclists are also authorised to use the bus lanes.
- Speed limit remains 30mph.
- No changes to turning movements.
Why are things changing?
The experimental scheme for bus, taxi and cycle lanes along Bitterne Road West, between Lances Hill and Northam River Bridge, was implemented to encourage active travel and support people who need to travel by bus, including key workers. Whilst this scheme consists of temporary bus lanes, the facility also supports social distancing along this busy corridor by offering people cycling an alternative facility to the narrow foot/cycleway.
- Bitterne Road West Journey Times – in ‘normal’ times heavy congestion during peak times has often led to speeds of 10mph along sections approaching major junctions. This has resulted in journey times of 17 minutes for buses and 24 minutes for cars travelling between the east of the city and the city centre.
- Bus Patronage – 373 people were recorded using the bus between 7:30am and 9:30am in February 2019.
- Cycling - 241 people were recorded cycling along the A3024 Northam Bridge between 7am and 7pm in June 2019.
- Traffic Impacts – since restrictions were eased following the first lockdown, traffic levels across Southampton have been increasing. As of the 8th July, weekday traffic levels remain 18.6% below pre-lockdown levels and the average traffic levels at Northam Bridge are currently 26% lower than in early March.
- Business Parks and Educational Establishments - We are continuing to engage with businesses, schools, the University and other destinations to fully understand their current and ongoing plans relating to the pandemic. The temporary bus lanes along Bitterne Road West will enable people who need to use public transport in order to access employment to do so with greater ease. Furthermore, the scheme will facilitate active travel to destinations along this corridor or to connecting routes to enable people to access facilities and services as they reopen.
- Events - We will engage with partners in the events sector across the city, such as St Mary’s Stadium, to enable us to manage changes in traffic levels and reduce the impact of large events as and when these are confirmed. In parallel to this, we will continue to monitor travel trends across the city as the Covid-19 situation evolves and to adapt or remove schemes accordingly.
When is it happening?
The temporary bus lanes, which taxis and cyclists are also authorised to use, were implemented on 24 June 2020, with the inbound section of the scheme over Northam Bridge implemented thereafter following works undertaken in connection with the cycle and bus access improvements along Northam Road.
This is a temporary scheme, which will be continually monitored over the coming months and reviewed in response to our findings.
Monitoring and Review
Automatic Traffic Counters installed at Northam Bridge and Maybray King Way allow us to monitor daily traffic flows and average vehicle speeds. This is supported by regular on-site observations, undertaken by Officers and volunteers, and a weekly review of journey time data collected through our network of Bluetooth sensors and Real Time Information for bus services.
Analysis of these datasets is monitored against pre-lockdown and lockdown pre-scheme baselines and key thresholds, including lane capacity, which when met will trigger alterations to the scheme or its partial or full removal.
Weekly reviews and recommendations are reported to the Executive Director of Place and the Cabinet Member for Green City & Place.
How can I comment?
The Bitterne Road West scheme is a trial scheme supported by the implementation of restrictions under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO).
ETROs allow schemes to be introduced on a temporary basis in order to assess their impact and effectiveness before a decision is taken on whether or not they are made permanent. As such any person may comment on or object to the ETRO being made permanent within six months of it coming into force, or within six months of any subsequent variation or modification to this Order coming into force, whichever may be later.
All responses must be in writing, stating the grounds on which they are made, quoting the Order title and sent to the Highways Legal Team at Southampton City Council, Civic Centre, Southampton, SO14 7LY or via email to Traffic.Orders.Legal@southampton.gov.uk.
This approach has enabled the Council to move quickly to support active travel and implement schemes that facilitate safe active travel quickly.