The Traffic Commissioner has called a summit to address the impact of roadworks on buses in Brighton and Hove.
Nick Denton, who oversees the running of buses in London and the south east, has asked Brighton and Hove City Council and bus operators for a meeting at “an early date” to discuss how roadworks can be managed better to minimise disruption.
Buses are currently experiencing major delays because of works to widen the pavement in North Street carried out by RBS which is redeveloping the former Hannington’s department store there.
Nearly all city services use the road, and are now frequently being diverted along the seafront.
This follows months of disruption while new bus and cycle lanes were built in Lewes Road and Edward Street.
And when work starts on Valley Gardens, which could be as early as autumn, many more months of delays can be expected.
A spokesman for the office of the traffic commissioner said: “The Traffic Commissioner for London and the South East of England, Nick Denton, is aware of issues affecting the punctuality and reliability of bus services provided in the Brighton area.
“He is working with stakeholders in the town to find a way of ensuring that the disruption from roadworks is managed more effectively, so that local bus operators can provide punctual and reliable bus services to those who rely on public transport to get around.
“Mr Denton is seeking an early date for a meeting with Brighton and Hove City Council and operators to identify solutions.”
Martin Harris, managing director of Brighton and Hove Buses, said the company had been concerned about the impact of roadworks for some time, while recognising they will improve pavements and road safety.
He said: “We have been working with our colleagues in the council and with contractors to minimise inconvenience to to bus users but the scale and combination of the works, and at times the unpredictability of their effects as phases of work change has meant short notice changes in stopping and routing arrangements, and delays and disruption to services.
“We are anticipating a meeting with the council and the Traffic Commissioner to discuss these matters further.
“We are all keen to see essential works achieved with the minimum of disruption to users. We recognise the challenges for our customers and our staff while the work is ongoing, but we can look forward to longer term benefits.”
A council spokesman said the Lewes Road works had improved journey times, and that a permit scheme to co-ordinate roadworks had also just been introduced.
He said: “The council works in partnership with local bus operators on a range of measures to improve bus services and journey times.
“For example the Lewes Road transport scheme alone the dedicated bus lane has improved journey times in both directions. Northbound journeys improved by an average of 23 seconds, while southbound journeys have improved by 1 minute and 27 seconds.
“The Valley Gardens project is still in its early stages. A planning application was recently submitted and as it is so early in the process there isn’t yet an agreed start date for this scheme.
“We always strive to involve and consult with the bus company throughout the design and planning stages of highways schemes.
“We are looking forward to having constructive discussions with the Traffic Commissioner and the bus company to address their concerns about roadworks and congestion and their impact on bus services.”
Under the new scheme, any business or organisation needing to excavate or divert traffic on the city’s highways must apply for a permit giving full details of the work to be carried out.
The maintenance will then be scheduled by the council to cause as little disruption as possible.
Collaboration between agencies is encouraged and reasonable conditions will be imposed to ensure the work can be completed at the earliest opportunity.
The permit scheme replaces a previous system where operators only had to give the council notice of their intention to carry out roadworks.This limited the council’s role in being able to control how and when work takes place.
The new scheme also applies to the council’s own works.
Permit fees will cover the costs of administering the scheme.
Around the country similar permit schemes are being introduced to streamline road maintenance in line with a national framework. Permit schemes have been operating in London and Kent for five years.
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.