Why Bitterne Road West?
The Bitterne Road West temporary bus, cycle and taxi lanes scheme forms part of Southampton’s Green Transport Recovery Plan to promote sustainable travel as a way of people getting around as restrictions are eased from the lockdown.
- Bitterne Road West is identified as a major bus corridor with 32 buses per hour (2-way). These bus lanes will ensure passengers have a more reliable bus service especially as operators are faced with having to reduce the number of passengers they can take and there is a greater chance that buses will be full, and passengers will have to wait for the next bus.
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 are 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 and rely on public transport to access essential services and employment, particularly those not served by local bus services. For information on how to protect yourself and others on public transport please visit: https://myjourneyhampshire.com/travelsafely
- 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 supports 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 BikeLife 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 to do so, including key workers. Whilst this scheme consists of temporary bus lanes, the facility also supports social distancing along the 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 – as restrictions have eased 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 early March.
- Business Parks and Educational Establishments - We will engage with businesses, schools, the University, and other destinations, to fully understand their current and continuous plans for reopening. 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. 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 restrictions are further eased and to adapt or remove schemes as required.
When is it happening?
The temporary bus lanes, which taxis and cyclists are also authorised to use, was implemented on 24 June 2020. The inbound section of the scheme over Northam Bridge will be implemented 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 will allow us to monitor daily traffic flows and average vehicle speeds. This will be 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 will be 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 will be 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 it is 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.