CHESHIRE West and Chester Council has responded to residents over controversial travel lanes in Chester.

The 'experimental' trial active travel lanes were activated on the A51 Boughton and the A5116 Liverpool Road on October 5, as part of a £161,000 scheme to encourage more active travel in the city.

Funding was provided by the Government, with the A51 Boughton implementation costing an estimated £13k and the A5116 Liverpool Road costing £27k. Further funds from the Government pot were used for the design, monitoring and evaluation of the schemes collectively in Cheshire west.

But the A51 Boughton road has been a source of contention in recent weeks, with motorists reporting long delays in both directions and traffic that has at times stretched back to the junction with the A41, next to the Boughton Heath Park and Ride.

Only buses, bicycles and taxis are permitted to use the new lanes, with the remaining traffic funnelled into the other lane.

More than 2,000 people joined a Facebook group in protest against the travel lanes, while more than 2,700 have signed a petition calling on the council to 'Cancel the experimental ‘active’ travel lanes in Chester.'

Residents have also raised questions at a recent Cheshire West and Chester Council meeting.

Now, Cllr Karen Shore, deputy leader of CWaC and Cabinet Member for Highways and Strategic Transport, has responded to those questions.

Questioned what criteria has been used to judge whether the scheme has been a success, and whether CWaC is prepared to suspend the scheme before the end of its six-month trial following "sizeable public concern", Cllr Shore replied: "Clearly there are residents who do not support the trial of the active travel lanes. I am aware of the petition against the schemes and I am taking an active interest in the debate which is taking place on social media.

"The plan to implement bus priority lanes on Parkgate Road, Liverpool Road and Boughton was a recommendation made by the then administration of Cheshire West and Chester Council in February 2014, as part of the Chester Transport Strategy. At the time, the scheme had an indicative cost of £7 million.

"All of the current trials, including monitoring and assessment, have been funded by a specific government grant of just £161,000 and have not been funded by council tax.

"On the 9th May, the government described the funding pot as being for 'Pop-up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.'

"In terms of concerns raised about whether the experimental schemes are working, I would like to offer people an assurance that monitoring has been taking place since the introduction of the schemes.

"The appraisal will be based on data and evidence about journey times, air quality, and usage of different modes of transport along the corridors.

"Finally, the trials are an evolving process. The pictures and emails that residents are sending in are being used to make improvements including tweaks to junctions, new signage and adjustments to traffic signal timings."

The make-up of a new independent taskforce to assess the scheme has now been revealed by the council.

Representatives from the following resident groups, business and travel experts have received member invitations to the first meeting of the taskforce on Thursday, November 12:

  • Chester University
  • Marketing Cheshire
  • Sustrans
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Chester Residents’ Associations Group
  • Huntington Parish Council
  • British Cycling
  • Sustainability Forum
  • Youth Senate
  • Cheshire & Warrington LEP
  • Active Travel Forum
  • NHS Cheshire CCG
  • Transport Focus
  • Poverty Truth Commission
  • Chester BID
  • Road Freight Representative
  • Sustainable Travel for Tourism
  • Upton-by-Chester Parish Council
  • Great Boughton Parish Council

A call for evidence will be held in which wider representatives will be invited to submit their evidence to the taskforce for consideration. This shall include community groups and professional bodies that are both for and against the current sustainable transport projects.

Minutes from the taskforce meetings will be published to share their findings widely.

Cllr Shore said of the taskforce: "It will include opportunities for residents, businesses and other interest groups to play their part in evaluating the schemes based on the evidence collected against the core deliverables of air quality improvement, traffic management and modal shift."

The taskforce, monitoring and evaluation activities are in addition to ongoing discussions with other interested groups and individuals.

Responding to residents' concerns there had been a lack of consultation prior to the implementation of the active travel lanes, Cllr Shore said: "On page 11 of the 2014 Chester Transport Strategy Summary report, where the bus strategy – including the bus lanes - is outlined, it says: 'Consultation feedback supported the scheme as high priority.'

"Additionally, the clear message from residents in the council’s Stronger Futures consultation and the Walk, Ride, Thrive consultation which ran this summer, was for more active travel opportunities, reductions in speeding and to tackle the climate emergency for a greener and sustainable future.

"In Chester, the Liverpool Road, Grosvenor Bridge and Boughton schemes were all supported by the people who took part.

"It is important to highlight these points, as some objections I have seen on social media and received by email have been on the grounds of consultation. These consultations were promoted in the local press.

"Additionally, the links to the consultations on the council’s website were promoted in a city-wide newsletter, which was paid for and delivered by volunteers from the local Labour Party.

"I can only apologise if people were not aware of the consultation this summer, but we have listened to this feedback and we will continue to listen to further feedback throughout the period of the trial."

Cllr Shore added the travel lanes are being monitored "using standard highways monitoring techniques at a range of intervals and frequencies", but was not 24/7, and would include using web-based sources and collecting Trafficmaster and bus patronage data.

Air quality data was also being recorded and monitored, despite a data report glitch on the council's website which had since been fixed, and the information would be used in the trial lanes' evaluation.

Responding to a call for an early halt to the trial lanes experiment as "it is blatantly not working", Cllr Shore responded: "Whilst there are residents who do not support the trial of the active travel lanes, there are also residents who live along this stretch who have written to me personally to offer their support for the scheme.

"I fully acknowledge that I have received a wide range of correspondence from people who live on, work on, or travel on the Boughton route, some of whom have very genuine concerns. Their objections are based on personal experience and I value this greatly, however I also value a scientific, evidence-based approach to decision-making.

"The ambitions for the schemes are; air quality improvement, traffic management and modal shift in support of sustainable economic regeneration together with health and wellbeing.

"In order to collect enough qualitative evidence from users and enough quantitative evidence from our monitoring equipment, it is both rationale and logical to continue with the trial for the time being.

"This includes making adjustments where necessary, in response to the feedback we are receiving.

"I am also aware that there is a petition running which asks for the trial to end. I will encourage the petitioner to submit this to Democratic Services if they wish for it to be debated at the next full council. The petitioner will have the opportunity to speak in the debate, as will other members of the public should they wish to do so."

  • Anyone wishing to comment on the trial active travel lanes can email: