Sharma calls on Council to change controversial bus lane warning signs

Reading West MP Alok Sharma is again calling on Reading Borough Council to increase the font size of some controversial advanced warning signs for a bus lane on Southcote Lane. Alok has written to the Council having received an indication from the Department for Transport that the signs do not meet statutory requirements.

This follows a long-running campaign to better warn motorists of the bus-only restriction, on which Alok embarked after he was contacted by a number of affected local residents, including Lieutenant Kenneth Guest, Commanding Officer at The Salvation Army Reading West Corps.

Local residents raised concerns that the bus lane, which is only in operation between the hours of 7.30am and 8.45am, has been used to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for Council coffers after an Appeals Adjudicator ruled against Reading Borough Council in a number of Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) appeal cases, stating that the advance warning signs “do not give adequate information of this bus lane and its time of operation.”

Alok previously wrote to Reading Borough Council to request that the font size for the operating times of the bus lane is increased on the advance directional signs. The Council responded by stating: “The advance directional signs (ADS) are information signs and fully comply with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD)”.

Following the Council’s response, Alok wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport to request clarification with regards to whether these bus lane advance warning signs meet statutory requirements. The response from Norman Baker, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, stated:

“My officials have looked at the working drawing of the advance direction signs which you included in your letter and, although the size of the font used on the sub-plate is not shown, suggest that it does not appear to meet statutory requirements.”

Alok said: “I continue to have concerns that the Council has not heeded previous requests to increase the font size for the operating times of the bus lane on the advance directional signs, which by any reasonable person’s judgement is too small to be read even by a careful motorist.”

Alok continued: “Whilst the Council maintains that the signs are fully compliant with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, the response I have received from the Department for Transport seriously calls this into question. I therefore again appeal to the Council to listen to its local residents and the Department for Transport and take a pragmatic approach by improve the signposting.”

Lieutenant Kenneth Guest, who successfully appealed against eleven PCNs for this bus lane, said: “I have been convinced from the start that these signs are illegal and do not comply with the TSRGD 2002, the yard stick used by the Highways department, and I am calling for the Council to enter into proper and serious dialogue to reach a satisfactory solution that will leave the motorist without any doubt that a restriction is in place and indeed when and how it is enforced.”

Photo: Alok with Lieutenant Guest in front of one of the ‘advance warning signs’ for the Southcote Lane bus lane.