The controversial suspension of a bus lane in Birmingham could continue until March next year before politicians decide whether to make it permanent.

Angry campaigners against the Birmingham City Council decision on the Tyburn Road, first made 12 months ago, have pointed to new Department for Transport figures showing bus patronage in the West Midlands fell by eight million passengers last year.

The Birmingham Post has also seen a Government document showing just 30 miles of bus lanes have been introduced in the entire West Midlands conurbation in seven years - despite the region receiving about £8 to £10 million per year for "Showcase" bus schemes.

Public transport groups believe both statistics prove their fight to see the bus lane restored.

Bus company Travel West Midlands, which spent £2 million on new buses on the understanding the lane would be in place, now believes it has lost seven per cent of expected revenue on the route.

Campaigners believed the Tyburn Road bus lane suspension had twice been extended by six months by transport cabinet member Coun Len Gregory but a new officer's report to Birmingham's transport scrutiny committee denies this.

"The press speculation that the cabinet member had extended the orders for a further six months is incorrect as no such decision has been taken," it reads.

However, a press release from the council, dated September 13 2004, states: "A scheme introduced to relieve congestion during roadworks on the M6 and Aston Expressway has been such a success that it is being extended for another six months."

The release omitted to mention the order could legally last for 18 months.

The initial suspension of the lane was requested by West Midlands Police to ease predicted congestion during major roadworks on the M6 and Aston Expressway last summer.

However, the Conservative- Lib Dem administration decided to extend the suspension to ascertain whether the busy road would flow better with two lanes opened to all vehicles.

More work is underway after studies during the last 12 months proved inconclusive, with longer journey times for vehicles reported during the evening rush hour, with reduced times in the morning.

Overall, traffic flow on the road has increased.

A Birmingham City Council spokesman said that data was being recorded for the effect of the suspension on buses but a conclusion had not yet been reached.

Kevin Chapman, Birmingham spokesman for public transport pressure group Transport 2000, said: "It does seem surprising that the majority of an 18-month order is being used to decide what to so with the Tyburn Road bus lanes.

"It has been dragging on and on. New DfT figures show that bus patronage in the West Midlands is eight million passengers down and this is indicative of how the West Midlands treats the bus passenger.

"How on earth is the region supposed to get more people from their cars to the buses if priorities for buses are not put in place?"

The new DfT statistics show there were 324 million passenger journeys on West Midlands buses in 2004/2005, down from 332 the year before. The figures also show bus patronage has fallen by 30 million since 2000.

Phil Bateman of Travel West Midlands said: "We continue to argue that the advent of bus passenger priorities helps the overall reliability and punctuality of the local bus service - something that politicians of all political persuasions want, as well as local electors."