Anger at ‘stealth tax’ of bus lane fine haul

Should councils give drivers a warning the first time they stray into a bus lane?
Should councils give drivers a warning the first time they stray into a bus lane?
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controversial charges for motorists straying into designated bus lanes in the region generated nearly £6m in penalty fines last year, an investigation by The Yorkshire Post has found.

More than 200,000 penalty charge notices were issued by local councils in the last financial year, the new figures reveal, with a staggering rise in their use in some parts of the region.

And, as it emerges that in some areas almost half of these fines are issued to people from outside the area, campaigners have spoken out against this “stealth tax” on the unwary.

“The use of cameras to penalise drivers for bus lane offences should always be used as a last resort,” said AA spokesman Jack Cousens.

“Local authorities who are seeing a large income from a particular bus lane need to look past the haul of fines and investigate why so many drivers are caught.

“More often than not, the design of the road and signage can be improved. Councils should look to rectify these issues rather than see drivers as wallets on wheels.”

The figures show a wide disparity across the region. In Leeds, around 59,000 fines were issued, compared to nearly 45,000 in Sheffield and 17,000 in Hull. In York, despite two cameras existing, neither have been in operation since a battle over their legality was unearthed in 2014 and not a single penalty has been given.

Bradford Council, meanwhile, issued 84,528 fines – a sum which accounted for more than 40 per cent of all penalty charge notices in Yorkshire in the year to March 2016. “It’s absolutely a stealth tax - it’s just a way to grab money,” said Janet Porter from Leeds, who is campaigning for councils to operate a warning system before fines are issued.

“It’s not desperately dangerous, it’s an inconvenience to buses and cyclists. People aren’t deliberately flouting the laws. It’s a high price to pay for a momentary mistake.”

In total, the penalty charge notices generated £5,899,632 for Yorkshire councils last year, including nearly £2.3m in Bradford, £1.9m in Leeds, and £1.1m in Sheffield. And, with more cameras coming, their use is on the rise. In Hull, which only introduced the cameras in August last year, three more are soon to be in place.

And in York, where a huge row broke out over their use on Lendal Bridge in 2014, a camera on Coppergate which has been suspended since that time is to be enforced again from January.

“These measures will hopefully ensure less motorists enter the street during restricted hours, in turn helping traffic to flow better in the area and allow the city’s bus services to run more efficiently,” said executive member for transport and planning, Coun Ian Gillies.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Bus lanes allow public transport and emergency services to move quickly through congested areas and deliver a more effective service.

“Bus lanes are clearly marked and comply with national standards.”

‘Give warning first’: Page 5.