EALING Council once again defied Transport for London as drivers were being "waved through" bus lanes normally closed to motorists.

On the day the Congestion Charge zone moved to Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush, council leader Cllr Jason Stacey opened up six controversial lanes to help traffic run more smoothly.

He said: "This is a good result for our long-suffering residents who have voiced their resentment about these bus lanes, but I would like to stress that this is only the first step. The council will continue to monitor the lanes with a view to suspending them completely if our studies show that this initial change in hours has had a positive impact on traffic flow."

The decision to open up the six bus lanes was taken as part of an 18-month experiment to "prove" to London Mayor Ken Livingstone and TfL that the bus lanes "are not needed or wanted".

Drivers in Petts Hill, Northolt, took advantage of the new lane as they were waved through by Cllr Stacey yesterday.

Other bus lanes under observation include Yeading Lane, Church Road and Mandeville Road.

Linda Koupparis, chairman of Danemead Grove and Petts Hill Residents' Association, admitted congestion was a "major problem" in Northolt.

"The council is trying to address traffic problems and pollution so we will have to wait and see what the consultation reveals," she said.

"There is a lot of traffic in Northolt but is a big decision to suspend the lanes permanently."

She added: "Unless they do something about the White Hart roundabout traffic will stay a problem."

The council said the six bus lanes add to congestion rather than reduce it, resulting in needlessly long journeys for motorists.

But the decision to suspend the lanes was originally met with fury by TfL, who even threatened legal action and said it would withdraw £4.6million in borough funding.

It called the move "anti-commuter" and "anti-public" - but has now backtracked, making no objection to this next stage of the consultation process which has seen a massive reduction in bus lane operating hours.

From yesterday hours of operation for the lanes changed from Monday to Sunday, 7am to 7pm, to Monday to Friday, peak times only - a reduction of 54 hours a week.

Cllr Will Brooks, portfolio holder for environment and transport, said: "TfL has issued threats and put up unnecessary hurdles to stop us doing this every step of the way.

"It said the bus lanes were "absolutely essential" and we should not try to interfere.

"But it has not objected to operation hours of 30 hours a week. Clearly it is not as essential as it originally made out."

The Conservative administration is already at loggerheads with TfL over the controversial West London Tram.

Cllr Stacey added: "We have had so many complaints and seen so much anger and bitterness towards these bus lanes from residents since they were installed - at least we have the chance to see if we can live without them."