Sunday, November 14, 2010

Using it while it lasts!

Back to work this afternoon driving my coach up to London along the M4 motorway. Between Junctions 3 and 2 going towards London there is at the moment a bus lane , that I use every time I drive my coach. Sadly our recently elected Tory government has decided to abolish this bus lane from the 24th December. That will be a sad day for all bus, coach and taxi passengers. This 3.5-mile bus lane was created by John Prescott in 1999 and has worked really well for the last 11 years. Our government should leave well, well alone. But Tories being Tories, they think that the motor car is king and that only poor Labour voters travel on public transport.

At the moment journey times for people using public transport going into London along the M4 motorway are reduced because of this bus lane. This is because the M4 motorway narrows from 3 lanes into 2 lanes just before the Brentford flyover and cars can start queueing back due to the sheer volume of traffic. Of course you can get far more people on a coach compared to the number of people into cars for the same amount of road space, so having a bus lane is a rather democratic use of the infrastructure. Without the bus lane you are still going to have tailbacks simply because the motorway narrows from 3 lanes into 2. All the closure of this bus lane will achieve is that the tailback queue will occur in 3 lanes rather than 2 simply because of the volume of traffic. Journey times may be reduced by mere seconds for the many car drivers impatient to get into London. Journey times for environmentally friendly public transport users will be extended by many minutes, especially at peak times.

So, when this bus lane is closed, I will revert to what I used to do before it was created in 1999. By the time I get as far Junction 3, I will position my coach in the driving lane, that is lane number 1. I will drive in that lane until the end of the motorway, I will not pull into lane number 2 to overtake a slower moving vehicle. The reason for this comes from my experience of driving along this section of the M4 motorway before the bus lane was created. Cars drivers are really impatient to get into London and will race towards the end. These drivers are going for it and they must get in front at all costs. Drivers in lanes 2 and 3 are racing for position, with insufficient gaps between them. One driver breaks and the following drivers follow suit, most of the time as they race towards the Brentford flyover. But very often they pay the price for driving too fast and too close. BANG! they crash into each other as more experienced and professional drivers go sedately past in lane number 1 shaking their heads. That is why I will drive along in lane number 1, for my own comfort and safety. I have seen so many tail-gated accidents in lanes 2 and 3 over the years to know that lane number 1 is best practice.

I will use the M4 bus lane until it is closed although we always have the same problem at the end. Lane number 2 merges into the bus lane from the left, the merge distance is huge. However, car drivers MUST get in front of the coach at all costs because they are successful people in their shiny cars. I look in my mirrors and there is a huge empty gap behind my coach for these car drivers to very safely slot into. But what do these selfish, arrogant car drivers do? Oh yes, they force their way straight into the front of my coach because they MUST get in front, nomatter what. This not just happens to me, it happens to all coach drivers on this section of motorway. I look a long way in front of me and I witness that the coach driver a long way in front is experiencing the same aggression imposed against him by car drivers that I will find moments later. Still, from 24th December it will be lane 1 for me, with a nice big empty gap in front of me as I watch the car drivers in lanes 2 and 3 charge into their next accident.
Nice article Steve but unfortunately you dont even mention if you will or will not have sufficient time to complete your journey in the 4hrs and 30 mins allowed.......... I think this will effect many a journey into London
Simple, what we have to do is complete the journey into London. If it runs at over 4 hours 30 minutes then declare on the tachograph "unforeseen delays" - end of story. The driver is then covered and the employer is left to defend their planned journey to VOSA. It is not a driver problem as he has shown due diligence, the operator will come under question if these alleged "unforeseen delays" become regular.
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