A Yorkshire council has been heavily criticised over its appeals process in relation to a bus lane camera that cost motorists more than £250,000 in fines in its first 10 months in operation.
Between March and December last year Leeds City Council issued 6,259 tickets to drivers who were filmed straying into the lane on Kirkstall Road, at the junction with Viaduct Road in Kirkstall.
The £250,850 in fines from the camera dwarfed the average income of £38,000 from the city’s other 39 bus lane cameras in the previous 12 months.
The council says the cameras are designed to reduce congestion and encourage public transport usage – and the income is ring-fenced for highways spending.
But the authority has been taken to task by a Traffic Penalty Tribunal for rejecting an appeal by one driver without considering his evidence.
Property consultant Ian Kerry, 41, was given a penalty charge notice after cutting into the Kirkstall Road lane last August.
He wrote to the council asking for more information – but was told his appeal had been rejected before he had even made his case.
However, after taking the matter to a tribunal, Mr Kerry’s ticket was overturned.
In a critical written judgement the adjudicator said the council had “paid no regard at all to the possibility that he might wish to raise mitigation” in his defence.
The judgement added: “The council are obliged, of course, to consider not only if there was a contravention but, if and only if there was, what other information might mitigate it.
“Rejection only because there was a contravention is the wrong approach to their duty under the regulations.”
Mr Kerry said: “There’s clearly a rush on the part of the council to get their hands on the money as soon as possible. I’m virtually certain that there are many other people who would have legitimate grounds to appeal.”
Motorists face a £30 fine for using the bus lane, rising to £60 if they fail to pay within 14 days. Figures show 136 of the 6,259 tickets issued in relation to the Kirkstall Road camera last year were cancelled as the result of appeals.
The Kirkstall Road camera generated £12,514 in its first month. Fines peaked at £52,060 in April before declining steadily to £6,270 in November.
The figure rose again to £11,910 in December. A spokesman for the Automobile Association said: “It looks like the council gave lots of Christmas shoppers a nice little memento of their journey into Leeds.”
He added fines were acceptable for inconsiderate drivers but there needed to be “discretion” shown towards motorists who strayed into the lane, especially to allow emergency vehicles past.
A council spokesman said: “The 39 bus lanes throughout Leeds are part of the city’s commitment to reduce congestion and improve public transport links. We closely monitor the impact of bus lane enforcement in different locations to make sure the measures we have taken are delivering the best possible outcomes for road users.”
The decline in fines showed drivers were getting the message, he said. In relation to Mr Kerry’s case he added: “We always take the decisions and recommendations made by Traffic Penalty Tribunals seriously to see if we can find better ways to operate and will do so in this case.”