BUS lanes are to be added to three key stretches of road leading into, and out, of a busy city centre.

Lanes will come into force on the B6532 between County Hall and Aykley Heads roundabouts, in Durham.

They will also operate on the A167, on the southbound approach to the Pity Me roundabout, and on the northbound approach to Croxdale roundabout, both on the outskirts of the city.

All three will be in force between 7am and 7pm and the first two will also be classified as cycle lanes.

Durham County Council's highways committee granted approval to the bus and cycle lanes, despite objections to all three.

Deputy chief executive Chris Tunstall said they were being introduced as part of the county council's commitment to encourage more sustainable forms of transport, with the aim of persuading more people to take public transport.

All three will back up the park-and-ride scheme to be introduced on roads leading into the city later this year.

Referring to the lane near County Hall, Mr Tunstall said: "The introduction of this bus lane will also greatly assist the proposed park-and-ride bus service during peak hours, reducing delays and making the service more attractive to commuting motorists.

"This should, in turn, provide a reduction in traffic flows, resulting from patronage of the park-and-ride scheme.''

He said 26 bus services now use this stretch of road an hour, rising to 32 when the park--and-ride scheme comes into operation.

Durham Police opposed the proposal, fearing it could lead to long tailbacks of traffic to Aykley Heads roundabout at peak time, creating difficulties for emergency vehicles attending incidents.

But Mr Tunstall said the bus lane would be available for use by emergency vehicles, while keep clear signs on Aykley Heads roundabout are intended to aid the passage of emergency vehicles leaving force headquarters.

The Freight Transport Association objected to all three proposals, saying commercial and heavy good vehicles would not be able to use the priority lanes, while individual objections were lodged at both A167 bus lane plans.

But Mr Tunstall said: "The introduction of bus priority measures are aimed at improving services, making them a more attractive alternative to the private car, which accords with current Government policy.'