§ Mr. Jenkin
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions (1) what plans his Department has to extend the use of the M4 bus lane to include high-occupancy vehicles; and what measures he plans to implement to ensure compliance with this rule; 
(2) how many (a) buses, (b) taxis and (c) bus services use the M4 bus lane; and what were the equivalent figures for the same stretch of road prior to the bus lanes existence; 
(3) what assessment he has made of the effect of the M4 bus lane on traffic flow and journey times on the M4 (a) between the M25 intersection and the start of the bus lane and (b) before the M25 intersection at (i) rush hour and (ii) off-peak periods; and if he will publish the recent report submitted by the Road Transport Laboratory; 
(4) what plans he has to introduce variable speed limits on the M4 between the M25 intersection and the Chiswick terminus; 
(5) what estimates he has made of (a) the number of passengers carried in the M4 bus lane and (b) the number of people who have changed their journey routes to avoid the M4 since the bus lane was established. 
§ Mr. Hill
As this is an operational matter for the Highways Agency, I have asked the Chief Executive, Mr. Peter Nutt, to write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Peter Nutt to Mr. Bernard Jenkin, dated 11 November 1999:The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Keith Hill, has asked me to answer your recent Parliamentary Questions about the M4 Bus Lane and the recent report compiled by the Road Transport Laboratory. I have been asked to reply as this is an operational matter for the Highways Agency.Independent monitoring of the M4 Bus Lane pilot scheme by the Transport Research Laboratory is provided in regular detailed reports. I am arranging for a copy of the report on the first three months of operation to be placed in the Library of the House and I enclose a copy for your personal use. In addition, a summary of the findings during this initial period has been published in a leaflet that has been distributed widely. A copy of this leaflet has been placed in the Library of the House.The full report shows the effect on the journey time between junction 4 and the start of the elevated section to be:
Minutes Average time saved per vehicle Time of day (weekday) Buses and taxis Other vehicles 06.30–09.30 4.5 2.6 09.30–17.30 -0.8 -0.7 17.30–20.30 3.2 1.6 20.30–06.30 -1.5 -1.3The monitoring during months four and five show similar results. Information is not available for the length of the M4 to the west of junction 4.697WUse of the bus lane varies from day to day and week to week. The highest measured flows were in the week commencing 18 October when Paddington Station was closed and averaged approximately 5000 vehicles per day. Measured peak hour flows were 60 buses and coaches, 10 minibuses and 370 taxis. The previous highest flow during a week was 4,300 vehicles per day. During the week commencing 25 October (the half term week for many schools) the average daily flow was approximately 4,000 vehicles, of which 500 were buses or coaches, 90 were minibuses and 3,400 were taxis. In this week the typical peak hour flow included 35 buses or coaches, 8 minibuses and 220 taxis.Comprehensive traffic count data by vehicle type is not available for the period prior to the bus lane. Estimates based on sample counts before the bus lane was installed indicate hourly flows at peak times of up to 50 buses, coaches and minibuses and up to 350 taxis.Surveys carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory show that the average occupancy of buses and coaches to be 15, taxis to be 2.5 and other vehicles to be 1.2, all including the driver.The surveys have found no evidence that drivers have changed their journey routes to avoid the M4 since the bus lane was opened. The surveys have revealed that the observed maximum traffic flows on the elevated section of the M4 has increased by 10 per cent. since the opening of the Bus Lane.We are continuing to evaluate this pilot project but there are no plans at present to introduce variable speed limits or allow high-occupancy vehicles to use the bus lane.