End of the road for M4 bus lane

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An unpopular bus lane on a busy motorway, introduced by the former Transport Secretary John Prescott in 1999, is to be scrapped, it was revealed today.

Current Transport Secretary Philip Hammond will announce on Monday that the 3.5 mile-long lane on a London-bound section of the M4 will be suspended from December 24 until the London Olympics start in July 2012.

Mr Hammond will say that, after the Olympics, he plans to scrap the lane permanently.

There was much criticism of the lane when it was introduced and it was known as the "Blair lane" after the former prime minister used it to avoid heavy traffic.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference, Mr Hammond will say: "Nothing is more symbolic of Labour's war on the motorist than the M4 bus lane. It was John Prescott's idea and I think that says it all.

"I can announce today that from the end of December until the Olympics the M4 bus lane will be suspended. And once the Olympics are over, my intention is to scrap it permanently."

Critics of the lane, also used by black cabs and motorcycles, have said it is rarely used and poorly enforced.

The lane will be back in use for the Olympics as this section of the M4 is part of the Olympic Route Network to help get people speedily to and from events.

RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "Most drivers on the M4 will wonder why this decision has taken so long. Road capacity is in short supply and to have an underused lane like this has made little sense.

"While other motorways have been widened to allow for the growth in traffic, on this stretch of the M4 capacity was actually being reduced."