B&NES ‘open minded’ about return of Dorchester Bus Gate

Bath and North East Somerset Council’s Liberal Democrat administration has refused to be drawn over the future of the Dorchester Street Bus Gate, saying only that the authority is ‘open minded’ about its return at some point.

The statement from the Council’s ruling Liberal Democrats comes following pressure from opposition Conservatives for B&NES to clarify whether there could be return of the controversial Bus Gate and if so under what circumstances it would be reintroduced.

At the B&NES Council Cabinet Meeting last Wednesday, 14th May, Conservative councillor Anthony Clarke questioned the Liberal Democrat Cabinet on whether it still believed that the Dorchester Street Bus Gate remained a worthwhile idea which the Council would try to pursue in future. In answer to the question, the Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member for Transport stated only that the Council ‘must remain open–minded to implementing appropriate traffic management measures that benefit the city overall’.

In answer to a separate question from Councillor Clarke, the Lib Dem Cabinet Member also stated that the Council believed that the Bus Gate had achieved its ‘key and important objectives’. The Cabinet also confirmed that data from the Bus Gate trial would not be published until the Council had refunded all the fines it had issued during the trial period, probably at the end of July.

Conservatives have said that the lack of clarity over the future of the Bus Gate would lead to concerns from residents that lessons had not been learnt from the episode, which has been widely branded as a ‘fiasco’.

Conservative Group Leader Cllr Tim Warren commented:

“The fact that the Lib Dems are being so cagey about the future of the Dorchester Street Bus Gate is unlikely to fill residents with confidence, and their statement that Bus Gate achieved its ‘key objectives’ doesn’t really give the impression that lessons have truly been learnt from this expensive fiasco.

“Despite all the problems caused by the Bus Gate, not to mention the huge waste of money, B&NES simply won’t accept that the trial was a complete failure. Moreover, despite our calls for greater clarity, the Lib Dems refuse to be drawn on the circumstances under which they would reintroduce the Bus Gate.

“We have now been told that B&NES won’t publish the data it collected until the end of July after all the fines have been refunded, though it seems at least that it won’t be reintroduced until the Rossiter Road work is finished. But given the fact so many cars unwittingly breached the Bus Gate during its months of operation, it is hard to see what meaningful data will have been collected during its trial period.”