Agenda item

Bank Junction improvements (All Change at Bank): Traffic mix and timing review conclusion

Report of the Interim Executive Director Environment.


The Committee considered a report of the Interim Executive Director of Environment which provided the Committee with information needed to make a recommendation to the Court on whether to pursue a change to the restrictions.


The Interim Director of Environment stated that the Court of Common Council had requested a review of traffic restrictions at Bank junction and the report delivered on that request. He stated that the data was mixed and the arguments were finally balanced. The Chairman suggested the Committee ask for clarifications and technical questions with debate taking place at the Court of Common Council meeting in order to avoid repetition.


In response to a Member’s question about governance, the Interim Assistant Town Clerk advised that the Committee was required to choose one of the two options outlined in the Officer report to recommend to the Court of Common Council. The Court could then either choose to support the recommendation or not support it.


In response to a Member’s suggestion that the Court of Common Council could consider a report with options, the Interim Assistant Town Clerk advised that this would not be in the spirit in which the Court had set out its standing orders and the way it had chosen to conduct debate. She added that with the Committee recommending an option, the merits of the other option would still be presented to Court and Members could support or not support the recommended option.


A number of Members spoke in support of having a debate at the Committee meeting and the Chairman therefore opened up the debate.


A Member commented that the report only included highway considerations in detail, although it briefly mentioned other relevant considerations and he stated this was a finely balanced matter. He commented that another consideration was the purpose of any transport mode and taxis assisted the business of the City. The Member stated that not being able to get taxis through the City inhibited business. He commented that the impact on finances and business should be considered and added that if weight had not been given to the financial considerations that Option Two had to be considered. An Officer stated that the report referenced equalities, mixed economic evidence which was largely anecdotal, the strength of feeling amongst taxi drivers and the wardmote so all these factors had been taken into account in reaching the Officer recommendation.


In response to a Member’s question about an experimental traffic order, an Officer confirmed that the traffic order at Bank junction currently was a permanent traffic order and added that experimental traffic orders could only be in place for a maximum of 18 months.


A Member stated he had made a Freedom of Information request on the number of infringements of vehicles going through the junction. He stated that some vehicles had gone through three times and one had gone through 61 times in the year. 151 vehicles had gone through the junction 675 times. He suggested that this could be limousines taking business people from the airport to offices. An Officer responded that it was a challenge to find the detail of the repeat offenders. There was no evidence to suggest it was limousine drivers. The one vehicle that had gone through over 60 times was a commercial vehicle. He stated that some people knowingly committed contraventions. There was also some evidence that some people committed a contravention repeatedly until they received a series of penalty charge notices (PCNs) and then they changed their behaviour.


A Member stated that the junction had been transformed and was now a much more pleasant environment to walk and cycle through. He stated that when taxis were going through the junction, there was much more congestion and therefore letting them back through would increase congestion again. The Member asked Officers if they could look at just opening the junction to taxis east-west with no turning in the junction. The Chairman stated that the scope of the motion at the Court of Common Council was not to specify which arms would be opened.  The Chairman added that following the decision to be made at the Court of Common Council, subsequent decisions would then be the remit of the Streets and Walkways Sub-Committee and the Planning and Transportation Committee. An Officer confirmed that after the Court decision, Streets and Walkways would then determine whether all routes or some of them would be reopened as part of the modelling process and decision on the specific highways changes.


A Member commented on the positive transformation of Bank junction. She stated socioeconomic disadvantage had been included in the report but not explicitly. She stated that Wheels for Wellbeing had a proposal to clarify the substance of the equalities argument by allowing those with a blue badge to put that in the front of the taxi and not trigger the ANPR. An Officer stated this was currently not possible as there was not the technology to enable ANPRs to recognise blue badges. This could be looked it if the technology was available in the future.


In response to a question about the TfL taxi card, an Officer stated that there was a taxi card system in place that was administered by TfL* and was funded through the On Street Parking Reserve. Officers were unable to comment on how easy to use the system or how many people used the scheme as the scheme was administered by TfL but confirmed it did apply to black cabs and private hire vehicles. Officers had asked for data to understand how many taxi card journeys finished in the Bank area but had not received this. The Chairman asked Officers to request this data again.


[*An Officer later advised that it was London Councils rather than TfL who administered the taxi card scheme.]


The Member stated there would be a financial cost to not making a decision and seeking more information.


A Member asked about the status of representations received by Members of the Committee. The Chairman stated that representations were not treated in the same way as for planning applications and people could lobby Members on Court.


A Member commented on the aims of the project to transform Bank junction and stated that it was now much safer. She added that maintaining the quality of the space was essential to meet the needs of Destination City and the aim to attract more people into the City. She stated that removing the traffic from Bank Junction at the weekends would improve visitors’ experience of visiting the City at the weekend. She commented that the Officer recommendation was not to change the current restrictions and stated the importance on not reversing change and undoing the street improvements that had been made in recent years.


The Member also stated that a representation from Wheels for Wellbeing suggested supporting Option One. She stated that the organisation represented people with disabilities and therefore the knowledge and insight was valuable. She suggested this should be provided to Court Members. The Interim Executive Director of Environment stated he would look into this.


The Member stated that she considered that a small increase in traffic would heighten the risk element.


The Member raised concern about the Court decision taken in 2022, with an amendment to the motion and a lack of debate. She stated that this had increased the costs in terms of other projects delayed. She asked Officers for the cost figure and details of the projects which had been delayed. An Officer stated he would not want to guesstimate the figure. Costs expended so far were however, included in the Officer report. There was an additional request agreed through due diligence and the normal governance process to deal with all the aspects Court asked to be looked at. So far, £277,000 had been spent, leaving £327,000 to get to the point where a change (if Court decided to implement the change) could be implemented. As experimental traffic orders were monitored for 18 months and there was public consultation during that time, it was likely that further funding would need to be sought to deliver this through the usual processes.


The Chairman commended Officers on the report which considered many factors. He stated that the economic impacts had not been considered in the same way as the highways impacts and these should be considered. He added that there had been conversations with individual businesses around Bank junction and some of their feedback had been included in the report. He commended Officers for the quality and pace of the work. 


The Chairman stated that the pedestrian space at Bank junction had been well received by all users and he asked for clarification that any potential changes would be within what was already in place. An Officer stated that the decision related to the traffic mix and not the traffic design and therefore the junction would remain unchanged regardless of the decision made at Court.


The Chairman referred to the equalities reference in the report which mentioned specific groups having concerns but not necessarily enough of a concern to warrant a change in decision. He stated the importance of not excluding any groups. Members were informed that an equalities impact assessment had been undertaken. The report acknowledged there were benefits and disbenefits but Officers did not consider that any groups would be excluded as a result of changes.


A Member stated that there might be an indirect link between the inclusion of taxis and safety as there would be more traffic, turns, complexity and less crossing time for pedestrians.


Having fully debated the application, the Committee proceeded to vote on the Officer recommendations before them.


Votes were cast as follows: IN FAVOUR – 8 votes

                                            OPPOSED – 4 votes

                                            There were 2 abstentions.


The recommendations were therefore carried.


RESOLVED - That Members of the Committee

1.        Note the content of the report, which concludes the review of traffic and timing mix at Bank junction; and

2.        Endorse the findings of the review and recommend to the Court of Common Council Option 1: - No change to current restrictions, with Bank junction continuing to operate as it currently does, i.e. bus and cycle only, 7am - 7pm, Monday – Friday, except for access to Cornhill from Princes Street.

Supporting documents: