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From Keighley News, February 27th, 2018
Written by David Knights

KEIGHLEY politicians are backing calls for all ambulances to be allowed to use bus lanes across the district. MP John Grogan and district councillor Rebecca Poulsen have pledged support for the plea by paramedics to be allowed to use the lanes.

The mercy drivers claim that fines for using the lanes – including the main road from Keighley to Bradford – are passed directly to them by ambulance bosses.

Health workers union Unite says bus lanes in Bradford district can only be used by emergency vehicles if they are on 999 calls that warrant sirens and flashing lights.

Unite health and safety rep Mark Burt say there were many other occasions when using a bus lane would contribute to patient care.

He said: “We do a lot of inter-hospital transfers that need a smooth journey. It may be a patient being transferred for further investigation – they still have an ongoing chronic condition.

“If it takes 20 extra minutes to get through a traffic jam that’s 20 minutes when you’re not able to do another call. That means people are waiting at hospital and home for long time.”

A Bradford Council spokesman this week admitted that if an ambulance used a bus lane in a non-emergency and was caught on camera, a fine would be issued.

But he said: “If the driver’s service manager subsequently informs us that the vehicle was on important duties, the fine will, in the vast majority of cases, be rescinded.

“At the moment we are consulting with other West Yorkshire local authorities about standardising the use of bus lanes by motorbikes and non-livered emergency service vehicles such as patient transfer vehicles. When the policy is decided and voted on by Council we will publish the new regulations.”

Cllr Rebecca Poulsen, who represents Worth Valley ward on Bradford Council, has called for all police vehicles, fire engines and ambulances to be allowed to use bus lanes.

She said: “This situation is absurd, as it allows for buses to use the lane to get passengers to their destinations quicker than ordinary traffic, but does not allow for an ambulance transferring a patient who is very poorly but not requiring Accident and Emergency treatment.

“During rush hour this is a farce which will be causing needless discomfort to vulnerable patients.

Keighley MP John Grogan pledged to support any nationwide policy to allow ambulances on non-emergency journeys to use bus lanes at all times in all areas.

He said: “This will remove doubt for ambulance drivers when travelling in different areas, and recognise that ambulance journeys are important more so than just taxis which are often allowed to use bus lanes.

Ambulances sitting in queues of traffic if bus lanes are free does not make much sense.”

The Yorkshire Ambulance Service declined to comment.