Prison Vehicles and Bus Lanes

MQT on 2008-11-12
Session date: 
November 12, 2008
Question By: 
Brian Coleman
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Will the Mayor instruct TfL to allow vehicles taking prisoners to and from Court appearances to use bus lanes?


Answer for Prison Vehicles and Bus Lanes

Answer for Prison Vehicles and Bus Lanes

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Brian, the short answer is no, but the long answer is that I have asked - and I am sorry that I do not want to get into a general game of increasing the number of four-wheeled vehicles in bus lanes. There has been, as you can imagine, a great number of applications from various groups for the privilege of doing this; the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), the Securicor vans who were taking cash around, they are on the case, they want to do it; funeral directors; vehicles transporting patients around London. What I would say, Brian, is that prison vans which convey nine people or more already have the rights to use bus lanes.

Brian Coleman (AM): Mr Mayor, this has been raised by the High Sheriff of London whose responsibility is to ensure that prisoners get to court appearances in Magistrates and Crown Courts on time. Would you accept there are now instances across the capital of magistrates sitting there twiddling their thumbs waiting for the prisoners to appear before them? This is now a regular occurrence and that is due to congestion on many of our roads. As you know, the principal contractor - there is one contractor who is contracted to move prisoners around London, which is Serco, - their vans are easily identified and this would be a substantial move to making our court system, which is overloaded already for various reasons, to reduce delays. Will you at least meet the High Sheriff of Greater London and discuss the matter with him?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I will certainly make sure, Brian, I mean this is a serious point and a serious proposal and I do not want to nickel and dime it. This is something that we should look into. My instinctive reaction is against endlessly expanding the rights of vehicular traffic to use bus lanes. TfL has a great deal of experience in moving bodies around London in moving the expedite in traffic flow in this way and I have undertaken that they will meet Serco and if necessary, of course, also the High Sheriff to see what we can do to speed up the transit for this prisoner vehicles.

Tony Arbour (AM): This is not something which should be treated in the same light as asking for cash vans, for example, and funeral corteges to be admitted to the bus lanes. The number of courts in London which would have criminals being transported by prison van are related simply to the Magistrate Courts and the Crown Courts; probably fewer than 50 of them. The number of vans which would be involved in this, chances are would be substantially less than 100 and I can confirm absolutely about the experience of twiddling thumbs. I spent a great deal of time counting raindrops going down windowpanes waiting for prisoners to arrive. Now, it is an extremely important thing that justice should be dealt with quickly. This would be a very, very simple --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I would be very reluctant for us to take the rap for a failure by Serco to get people around London fast enough. I want to bottle this discussion. I want to see what the real issues are and I do not want to be told that it is difficult to get prisoners out of bed before 6 am in the morning or something, or 7 am. If it is necessary to make an early start then they should make an early start.

The wider issue in my view is not that we should be allowing more and more - because this is the thin end of the wedge argument, Tony - people into the bus lanes. What we should be doing is getting rid of the obstructions to traffic and that is why we should be launching a major campaign against road works. Road works, yes? I think this organisation has been absolutely supine for the last eight years and it is high time we did something about it and we are going to do something about it.

That is the principal obstruction to traffic in London and we are going to be bringing forward proposals to finally make a difference and to make the utility companies who dig up the roads understand the full economic price of the chaos they are causing.

Tony Arbour (AM): There is not a Londoner who would not support you on that but as I have indicated to you the precise point about the prison vans is it is a very, very tiny number indeed and it creates a disproportionate cost and delay.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Tony, that point is well and well taken and I will certainly look into it and I will make sure that TfL have the meetings that Brian has proposed.