Drivers pay more than £2m in bus lane fines in Essex over four years

Colchester High Street bus lane

Colchester High Street bus lane - Credit: Su Anderson

Motorists in Essex have paid more than £2million in fines for using four bus lanes in the county.

Bus lane and camera at Nayland Road, Colchester - which is not in operation according to Essex Count

Bus lane and camera at Nayland Road, Colchester - which is not in operation according to Essex County Council. - Credit: Archant

Since 2012 the four schemes – which include North Hill and High Street in Colchester – have generated approximately £2.177m for Essex County Council.

This year alone there have been 27,721 bus lane fines making an estimated revenue of £650,000 for County Hall, equal to the 2014 income and exceeding the 27,190 fixed penalty notices issued.

The data shows a spike in the number of tickets issued in 2013, when 33,102 fines were issued generating £750,000 in revenue – which may coincide with the introduction of the two Colchester bus lanes.

However County Hall waived £1m in fines issued at those sites in 2013 after concerns around clarity of the signs informing motorists of the restrictions.

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The other bus lanes run by the county council are in Gunson Gate, Chelmsford, and Ghyllgrove, Basildon.

The Freedom of Information request published by Essex County Council also reveals that bus lane cameras in Nayland Road, Colchester, which were installed in 2010 and not switched on in February of this year have still not been turned on, despite “plans” for its activation.

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said nationally bus lane fines had been a “growth area” for councils with Traffic Penalty Tribunal figures showing 909,000 charges issued in 2013/14, up 64% on the previous year.

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Mr Watters said: “Bus lane fines are almost the new parking tickets, though the money has to be re-invested in transport.

“Only 17 appeals of bus lane fines were made to Essex County Council in the 2013/14 financial year, or 0.6%, and not enough people do appeal them. We have been calling for new statutory guidance from the Department for Transport on this issue.

“Some people will be deliberate offenders but many are simply mistakes by newcomers in the area who could get a warning first – much like the awareness courses offered for the criminal offence of speeding, which are very popular.

“There are wider implications. Visitors say it is hardly very welcoming, they get a fine and upset and won’t go back to a town.

“Where there is a decent demand for a bus lane then we should support it but they should be properly used and not 24-hours where this is not necessary.”

Bus lane fines are £60, reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks or rising to £90 if not paid within 28 days.

Essex County Council was unavailable to comment when approached on Friday afternoon.

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