Non-emergency ambulances, police cars and fire vehicles to use TfL bus lanes after trial

From: Transport for London
Published: Fri May 19 2023


From today (Friday 19 May) ambulances, police and fire vehicles across the capital will have access to bus lanes on London's main arterial roads while on duty, even when not dealing with an emergency. This follows a successful trial with Guy's and St Thomas' Foundation Trust that saw fewer missed appointments, and no negative impact on bus journey times.

The trial was set up to help people travel to appointments smoothly. More than 150 non-blue light patient transport vehicles were given access to over 25km of bus lanes in Lambeth, Southwark, Wandsworth and Lewisham on the TfL road network (TLRN). It also included bus lanes managed by Lambeth Council and took place over 12 months from February 2022.

It found that the number of missed NHS appointments fell by around 20 per cent and saved the Trust money, with no impact on bus journey times. The trial benefited patients who are unable to use public transport to attend appointments, reducing journey times and delays.

There are more than 8,000 emergency service fleet vehicles that use London's roads, meaning the Metropolitan Police Service, the London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service will benefit from less congestion and faster journey times, helping to provide a better service to all Londoners. Outpatients who rely on patient transport at all the capital's hospitals will now be less likely to miss appointments with knock on savings for the trusts themselves, and improved health outcomes for many patients.

TfL has continued to ensure the bus network is reliable and brought in measures to reduce journey times, previously confirming that 85km of bus lanes on the capital's busiest roads would be in operation 24-hours a day. As part of its Bus Action Plan TfL has committed an additional 25km of bus lanes, contributing to the wider goal of increasing bus speeds by 10 per cent.

Christina Calderato, Director of Transport Strategy & Policy at TfL, said: "Bus lanes have a proven track record of speeding up journeys, and we're delighted to see further benefits in this trial for Guy's and St Thomas' and thousands of its patients. We look forward now to more patients across the capital being able to get to their appointments on time and supporting the vital work of the other emergency services, be it a forensics van needing to get to a crime scene or London Fire Brigade equipment needing to be in the right place at the right time."

Seb Dance, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: "Making journeys in the capital quicker and more efficient is a key priority of the Mayor's. The trial of this initiative resulted in quicker journey times for vulnerable patients, without any negative impact on bus journey times.

"I'm pleased we've been able to support our colleagues in the emergency services and help improve patients' experience too.

"We look forward to working with London boroughs to implement it even more widely."

Ian Abbs, Chief Executive of Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Missing appointments is hugely frustrating for our patients and staff, so we are really pleased that this trial with TfL has reduced journey times by up to 16 per cent. It is brilliant that this initiative is being rolled out more widely, meaning even more patients will benefit."

Cllr Rezina Chowdhury, Lambeth Council's Cabinet Member for Sustainable Lambeth and Clean Air, said: "Our emergency service colleagues provide critical public services and we thank them for their commitment. In Lambeth we were happy to support this trial and welcome the finding that this new approach will benefit those seeking treatment from the NHS. We are committed to ensure emergency services are able to move around our borough as swiftly as possible, and this projects compliments that work."

Craig Harman, Director of Health and Volunteering Operations at St John Ambulance, said: "We support the NHS as part of our ambulance auxiliary work and allowing our ambulances to use the bus lanes when we are not responding to emergencies will improve our patients' experience.

"In addition, during large events this will enable us to get our resources in the right place as quickly as possible to make sure they are ready to respond to any emergencies.

"We applaud this move by TfL."

Following this announcement and the success of the trial, TfL will be working closely with London Councils to encourage all London boroughs to adopt the same approach to bus lanes on borough roads over the next few months.

TfL wants to ensure Londoners can move around the capital as safely, sustainably and efficiently as possible. Its investment in walking, cycling and public transport has made it easier to choose sustainable ways of travelling that make more efficient use of road space and help to cut congestion

Notes to editors

  • In 2021 TfL made permanent its trial of 24-hour bus lanes, after it found that extending bus lane hours on London's busiest roads cut journey times and helped reliability: tfl.gov.uk/24-hour-bus-lanes-trial-set-to-become-permanent-as-bus-journey-times-improve
  • The TLRN or red routes are demarcated by double red lines.
  • Nationally the annual cost of not getting to see clinicians on time costs the NHS 750m.
  • Data on missed appointments and reduced patient journey times was provided by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust.
Company: Transport for London

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