Banning petrol and diesel private hire vehicles from a bus lane won’t increase congestion or pollution, claims a Bedford council officer.
The scheme to allow only ultra low emission vehicles in the Ampthill Road bus lane went live in April.
But a member of the public quizzed the council over how the scheme would help cut pollution.
“If you prevent them from using the bus lane this will just create more traffic, leading to more congestion and pollution,” Mr V. Thapar said at the Environment & Sustainable Communities Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
Matthew D’Archambaud, chief officer highways, transport and engineering, replied: “Electric private hire vehicles are allowed in the bus lane, standard fuel vehicles are not.”
Mr Thapar said he was aware of that. But he asked: “If these vehicles are then in other lanes sitting idling and not using that bus lane doesn’t that just defeat the object?”
Mr D’Archambaud replied: “We’re looking to really prioritise electric private hire vehicles or electric vehicles using the bus lane I don’t think it creates increased congestion by not allowing private hire vehicles in the bus lane.”
Committee chair, councillor Kay Burley (Labour, Kempston Central & East Ward) said she understood the council trying to lower emissions and make us all a lot greener.
“But on the other hand, it’s pretty expensive to buy an electric car isn’t it?” she said. “It has been particularly hard for taxi drivers at the moment, and the cost of changing their car overnight is quite horrendous.”
Conservative councillor Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead Ward) agreed with councillor Burley.
“You don’t normally make a random decision, ‘oh because I can’t drive in the bus lane now, I’ll have to go out and buy a new car. Most of us sort of plan the replacement of our cars over time. I think that should have been given some more consideration before the decision was taken.”
Mr D’Archambaud said: “[This] wasn’t something that came in overnight, there had been an awful lot of consultation around the bus lane being designated solely for new level vehicles. It didn’t just appear as of April, it was part of the consultation process, the 18 to 24 months that the scheme was in development.”
Mr D’Archambaud added that the council will be monitoring the air quality and it would amend the scheme if required.
The council website states that the only additional vehicles permitted to use the Ampthill Road bus lane are bicycles, motorbikes and Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs).
A ULEV is defined as “a vehicle with CO2 tailpipe emissions of less than 75 grams per kilometre and with a capability of travelling a minimum range of 10 miles with zero CO2 emissions”.