Are buses breaking the law?
- Credit: Archant
Buses are being visibly allowed to break traffic laws put in place to help them without consequence, while motorists are being hammered by wardens who barely wait a minute before issuing a ticket.
That is the charge from business who have said buses, which are subject to the same traffic regulations as everyone else, knowingly flout laws that have been introduced to keep traffic flow moving in and around the bus station.
This includes stopping in the hatched box near the railway bridge just before the bus gate – which is causing complaints of restaurants filling up with diesel fumes – dropping off and picking up passengers on a double yellow line that specially prohibits loading at any time on a public highway and parking illegally on a section of the road outside the Co-op.
One dry cleaning business owner has started to operate a pick-up service at rush hour from within Chelmsford railway station, due to the number of times his customers have been issued with a ticket.
Nabeel Abbas, who has been owner of ASN Drycleaners for three years, said: “The problem is the buses and traffic wardens. In the last week one of my customers came in to get something – they came in for just two minutes to pick up the order.
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“It doesn’t take long, But in that time she got a ticket.
“She tried to argue but the warden said they had already taken the picture and the fine stands. I am losing business because they can’t get to me because there is no parking.”
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In the meantime buses can be seen regularly ignoring traffic regulations. The area has come under the spotlight after revelations that more than 37,000 tickets have been issued to motorists in the past ten months for driving illegally through the bus gate in Duke Street.
But with business rates of £400 a square metre – the same as the newly completed Bond Street shopping area – businesses say they are being unfairly targeted.
Mr Abbass added: “There is no parking around here. They should allow ten minutes’ parking. To allow drop off and picking up.
“This is why I have started using the railway hall for a pick up delivery service.
“Sometimes there are three or four traffic warden – there is no escaping them.”
“I have seen wardens ticketing a car and ignoring a bus.”
Yigit Muhtaroglu, owner of DFC Chicken said: “The parking is the first problem – the buses stop on the hatched area , when it is busy the buses just stay here and it fills the shop with fumes.
“It’s bad because we pay the same as the shop in Bond Street – £400 a square metre.
“As for the traffic wardens they won’t even give you one minute to unload deliveries.
“One day I came back from the cash and carry – stopped here for less than one minute – and they gave me a ticket.
“Show me where to park. “They told me I can park in Coval Lane. But they patrol in Coval Lane as well.
“My delivery drivers have to park somewhere and walk here.
“In the winter they have to walk all the way down in the snow and rain.”
Another resident, who has been examining the efficiency of the bus gate, said: “What the council have done is create a situation where the bus companies feel like they are entitled to do whatever they like.
“Literally to the point where they are parking on double yellow lines.”
He added: “No-one is exempt from the traffic regulation order.”
An Essex Highways spokesperson said: “Buses should not pick up/drop off passengers at the bus stand in Duke Street.
“This area is to enable driver change-overs, though occasionally passengers choose to get off at the same time.
“Sometimes buses are delayed getting into or out of the bus station as other drivers park/stop inconsiderately.
“There is no mandatory stop sign before entering Duke Street, however Civil Enforcement Officers – still sometimes referred to as traffic wardens – should enforce restrictions equally between all types of vehicle, with due emphasis on keeping the roads unobstructed.
“Some Traffic Orders are enforceable only by police.
“Restrictions in the Duke Street area are all standard for this situation. We will liaise with bus and coach operators to ensure that drivers and managers are aware of the requirements.”
A spokesperson from South Essex Parking Partnership (SEPP) said the hatched area is enforced by Essex Police and Essex County Council
“Our officers carry out regular enforcement patrols in Duke Street,” they said.
“On the road opposite the bus station, there are traffic regulations in place which state that vehicles cannot stop and wait in this area.
“Generally speaking, buses which are stationary in this area, are not stopping and waiting: they are on their way into the bus station as soon as they are able to.
“It would not often be practical for an officer to make the buses move on from this area or issue a penalty charge notice.
“If a bus was left unattended by its driver in an area with parking restrictions, then a penalty charge would be issued.
“It is worth mentioning that the ultimate purpose of the SEPP is to keep highways and traffic flowing freely to enable easy journeys for all: forcing a bus to move on instead of entering the bus station when it is reasonably stopped close to the entrance would interrupt the journeys of passengers, and those waiting at the station for their bus, and would be of little benefit to traffic movement in the area.
“SEPP will continue to monitor the area and fines will be issued to any vehicle breaching traffic regulations.”
Steve Wickers, managing director at First Essex, said: “We work closely with Essex County Council and the highways department to ensure roads and intersections are kept clear, allowing buses to proceed to their destinations on time and in accordance with published timetables.
“All our drivers are advised to adhere to road regulations that are imposed in the city and the surrounding suburbs across the county.”