Removal of Acton Lane bus gate on Chiswick High Road proposed

Image above: The Acton Lane bus gate on Chiswick High Road; via Google Streetview

New package of measures put forward by LB Hounslow to deal with congestion

Radical changes to Chiswick High Road are being proposed as part of a new package of measures being put forward by borough transport officers from LB Hounslow. They have submitted a report which will be considered at meeting of the Council’s Cabinet next Tuesday (5 September) advocating the removal of the Acton Lane bus lane.

This measure is opposed by Transport for London, but Council officers say implementing new bus lanes along the High Road, which were part of the original Cycleway 9 design, will ensure that bus travel times are not affected.

The original scheme included an addition 420m of eastbound bus lanes which could be added between Linden Gardens and Devonshire Road and Turnham Green Terrace and Thornton Avenue. This would also include 190m of eastbound bus lane, to the east of Stamford Brook Bus Garage. The proposed stretch between Turnham Green Terrace and east of Mayfield Avenue (146 Chiswick High Road) would require the removal of a mature tree.

The Hounslow Council officer’s report states:

“This could be expected to improve journey times for buses, since the lanes provide additional space particularly on approach to traffic signals. It is noted again that the bus gate at Acton Lane was introduced in lieu of bus lanes allowed within the original scheme and it is the view of Officers that the additional priority afforded to buses by these lanes would allow for the removal of the bus gate.”

Image above: Chiswick High Road; Photograph by Matt Smith

Bus gate has displace traffic onto local roads, acknowledges Council report

TfL’s Monitoring Report into the operating of Cycleway 9 released this week advocated retention of the bus gate as it did not fully mitigate eastbound bus delays along the High Road as all bus priority between Heathfield Terrace and Chiswick Lane had been removed to accommodate the cycleway. This was part of the temporary scheme implemented during the pandemic, but the pre-Covid designs for a permanent scheme did envisage the retention of bus priority on sections of the High Road.

TfL’s analysis showed that there were increased delays to buses both eastbound and westbound on the High Road which were even higher northbound on Chiswick Lane.

In addition, the Council’s traffic officers appear to be acknowledging the claims of local people that the bus gate has displaced traffic onto local roads such as Oxford Road North and Wellesley Road.

Their report states that general traffic journey times have been impacted by the cycleway, compared with 2019 baseline figures. With a ‘small’ increase of 0.16 mins/km (eastbound) and 0.31m (westbound) noted on Chiswick High Road. Chiswick Lane journeys have increased by a more significant 1.31 min/km.

Data has also been collected on local roads by the roundabout forming the junction of Sutton Lane North, Wellesley Road and Heathfield Terrace. Although westbound traffic on Wellesley Road has reduced due to the closure of access to the South Circular there has been an increase in eastbound movements on both Wellesley Road and Oxford Road North.

Image above: This bus stop would be moved further down the road to Chiswick Lane; via Google Streetview

Residents say congestion has become a serious issue

Residents claimed that congestion had become a serious issue due to vehicles seeking to avoid the queues back from the junction of Acton Lane and the High Road that had arisen since the implementation of the bus gate. TfL says that on average a bus using the bus gate will see a 10 second reduction in journey time. The removal of the bus gate at Acton Lane would allow for the reintroduction of advisory cycle lanes for westbound cyclists through the junction.

The Hounslow reports states: “These finding suggest that the bus gate at Acton Lane may be affecting route choices for general traffic – in both directions, and its removal is recommended.”

Introduction of the latter bus lane will require re-positioning of the cycle track and bus stops at Mayfield Avenue and Chiswick Lane. The proposals would see the westbound bus stop which is near De Joli move further back towards Chiswick Lane and be placed in front of Dog Town. The claimed benefit of the move is that the stop would be closer to pedestrian crossing facilities and allow for more loading and taxi space but it is recognised that it would be further way from the crossing at Mayfield Avenue and Turnham Green Terrace.

The westbound stop outside the Eye Studio near Duke Road would revert to the original 2019 design.

There is a suggestion that the eastbound bus stop near Mayfield Avenue may be moved back from its current location in front of the White Dental Studio to its original position near the Old Cinema.

The new bus lanes would result in reduction of day-time parking spaces on the north side of the High Road by eight, but would increase evening parking spaces from around 21 to 38 to the benefit of the night-time economy.

Image above: Zebra crossing near Windmill Road would have signals; via Google Streetview

TfL ‘needs convincing’ before proceeding 

As TfL will ultimately provide the funding for any changes, it will need to be convinced of the Council’s argument before it proceeds.

The bus gate removal is part of a package of ‘future improvements’ to Cycleway 9 being proposed by officers. These include an improvement to links to C9 to the Fishers Lane area, connecting with Cycleway 49. This be achieved by replacing the zebra crossing near Windmill Road with a parallel crossing which would allow cyclists to cross safely from the north of the High Road to the cycleway.

The zebra crossings at Mayfield Avenue and Linden Gardens, which has only recently been relocated, would also be replaced by signalised crossings.

A need to consider options to improve links to and from Prebend Gardens to the cycleway has also been identified. A review of the feasibility of a two-way cycle link to / from Prebend Gardens is being proposed to the cabinet.

At Dukes Avenue the original scheme re-aligned the cycle track on the westbound approach, allowing for addition of a left turn lane, and more space for right turn movements. This change would require the removal of one ‘small’ tree.

Officers say that the performance of Heathfield Terrace junction can also be improved, by implementing the original scheme, which provides for cyclists to be positioned within the existing kerb line, allowing them to continue westwards onto Heathfield Terrace without the need for traffic signals. Though this requires use of some pedestrian footway space, officers argue that there is ample to allow this to be undertaken and it would allow for a separate left turn lane to be provided for traffic at the signals, with resultant capacity benefit.

Image above: Proposed design at the junction with Heathfield Terrace; via Hounslow Council

Proposals offer “more coherent and direct facilities for cyclists”

The design also includes segregated facilities for cycles to join the route from both Heathfield Terrace and the western arm of Chiswick High Road, ‘providing more coherent and direct facilities for cyclists at this key junction, where the mix of cycle movements is at its most complex’.

The Cabinet is also being asked to approve that the Experimental Traffic Order (ETO) for Cycleway 9 (C9E), which is the upgraded temporary scheme completed earlier this year, be enabled under a permanent Traffic Management Order (TMO). The current ETO for the scheme will expire on 1 November.

Council officers responding to the report by TfL on the operation of the Cycleway and comments by residents to the consultation, 66% of whom said it had a negative impact, said that the cycleway had brought about a significant boost to the number of people cycling in the area an the evidence showed that, once the second phase of alterations completed earlier this year to improve junction safety had been completed, there had been a sharp fall in cyclist collision on Chiswick High Road. On air quality they stated, “attributing changes in air quality to changes in policy or highway changes is very difficult – many factors affect readings. Notwithstanding that, the main pollutants in the local area including NO2, PM10 and PM 2.5 have either decreased or are below EU limits.”

The officers concluded, “A review of data since the implementation of the trial highlights the successes that the scheme has delivered – increased cycle numbers, improved bus journey times, minimum impact on general traffic journey times, no significant impacts on air quality

and relatively better road safety. Officers therefore recommend the scheme be made permanent at this time.”

Both the Hounslow Council report and the TfL report contradict the claim that bus journey times have improved since the implementation of the cycleway.