CHESTER MP Chris Matheson says he believes the controversial experimental active travel lane on the A51 Boughton "will not work".

The active travel lanes, on both sides of the A51 between The Bars Roundabout and the Bill Smith Motors dealership, was one set of two implemented and activated in the city by Cheshire West and Chester Council – the other being on the A5116 Liverpool Road.

Unlike existing bus lanes in Chester – on roads such as Hough Green and Wrexham Road – these active travel lanes are 'experimental', with their usage monitored.

But while Mr Matheson said he was prepared to give the active travel lanes a chance, he cast scepticism the Boughton scheme was working.

Speaking to The Standard, he said: "I am in favour of people getting out of their cars – and I drive myself.

"We have to do more to promote active travel but we have to do it by consent. We can't just assume Park and Ride will help.

"The problem is the Government has forced it, so councils had to make it so their plans were developed in a matter of days. Right from the start we were hamstrung by the Government.

"I am prepared to look at the data – although it will be skewed because of the lockdown – but I am concerned that the Boughton scheme in particular will not work.

"It has two main arterial roads into the city joined at Bill Smiths, and the active travel lane comes right up to the ring road, so the traffic is forced into one lane.

"The problem that we have in Chester is that we are an ancient city with not much scope to expand the roads, and only one and a half bridges going through the city – all the traffic goes through that, unless you use the A55 bypass."

Mr Matheson said he was prepared to give the active travel lanes a chance, adding a final decision on the active travel lanes would be taken by the council and not him – but he had made his views clear on the scheme to them.

It comes as CWaC's head of highways and transport Sean Traynor said "lessons have been learned" from the council's fast-tracked implementation of the active travel lanes in Chester.

Mr Traynor was speaking during the first taskforce meeting designed to look at active travel solutions throughout the borough.

The taskforce, chaired by Professor Garfield Southall, executive dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Chester, has been set up to meet every four weeks and see how people can make the switch to active travel where viable.

Mr Traynor acknowledged that, unlike the Clockwise Chester road scheme – which had been many months in the making and had plenty of advance notice – CWaC had a matter of days to apply for the Government scheme's first round of funding, which turned out to be £161k.

He told the taskforce: "The Clockwise programme has been nine to 12 months in the making as part of the Northgate Development.

"The active travel fund, the council were given three days to complete an application form to secure its allocation, which was far from ideal, to devise, cost and submit the schemes.

"One instruction was given, on announcement of the funding awards, was that it had to be delivered within four to six weeks.

"Time or engagement was available in one [Clockwise] but not the other.

"Reflecting on that, tranche 2 of the emergency active travel fund, due to be released, is that the message has gone out that there is a need to engage with tranche 2 – there is an acknowledgement that lessons have been learned.

"The fundamental difference is they will want to see more evidence of communication with communities before the money is released – and that's all authorities across the country, which I think is really welcome news; it's a different approach.

"That does explain the time pressures we had."

Official Government advice to local authorities across the UK on the implementation of the first phase of the £250m emergency active travel fund was to get the schemes activated before the first lockdown ended.

It said: "Measures should be taken as swiftly as possible, and in any event within weeks, given the urgent need to change travel habits before the restart takes full effect."

Across the UK, councils have come under fire for fast-tracked implementation of 'low traffic neighbourhoods', closing roads to cars and fining motorists.