Drivers warned of crackdown on city’s bus lane offenders

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A COUNCIL is planning to extend CCTV camera enforcement of bus lanes after a pilot scheme caught thousands of car and van drivers illegally using the lanes.

Leeds Council launched a crackdown last year after a survey showed that the problem was widespread.

The pilot crackdown in the city centre led to almost 6,000 drivers being fined in just one month between August 8 and September 7 last year.

The number of offences following a publicity campaign and around 13-19 weeks of enforcement was 1,685 offences per week, a reduction of 82 per cent.

Before the publicity campaign and enforcement the council recorded 9,431 offences per week across five city centre sites.

Drivers who got caught out by CCTV faced fines of £60, or £30 if paid within 14 days.

It was estimated that the council had taken over £300,000 in fines from the pilot, which the authority now wants to extend.

The number of offences reduced by 80 per cent soon after the crackdown.

A report being discussed by member of the council’s Executive board next Wednesday, March 7, is proposing to widen the crackdown to other bus lanes across the city.

The council is proposing to carry out detailed analysis of each bus lane, looking at the number of offences recorded, before starting the crackdown.

Sites will added in phases with detailed plans being submitted for approval to a chief officer before each starts.

Amendments will be made to traffic regulation orders to allow Hackney carriages to use the bus lanes.

Surveys of bus lane violations were carried out in June last year and showed a number of bus lanes having high levels of infringement.

The authority has a list of 26 bus lane locations which show which areas are the worst for drivers ignoring the rules.

The top five worst for violations per day are:

• Low Lane, inbound near Balmoral Chase – 755 violations.

• Otley Road, inbound lane towards Shaw Lane – 718.

• B6154 Tong Road, inbound towards Whingate – 397.

• A64 York Road, inbound towards Marsh Lane – 389.

• North Street bus gate, inbound – 187.

The report says that it is not known how much money the camera crackdown will bring in.

“It is difficult to accurately evaluate the expected income revenue that would be generated, as the proposals are expected to be introduced in a phased approach. Experience elsewhere suggests that offences are likely to reduce by 85 per cent from those observed in the pre-enforcement surveys.

“Using the pre-enforcement surveys this would indicate that on average each site would take over a year to pay for installation, software and licensing, not taking into account any ongoing maintenance costs.”

The report says “sustained, intensive enforcement” will have a long lasting effect on driver behaviour – but only if enforcement is not removed.

It concludes: “These proposals will have a positive effect on bus journey times and subsequently help to increase patronage.

“The proposals, which are expected to be self financing, are a fundamental element to reducing congestion and maintaining freer flowing traffic in bus lanes.

“The pilot is already having a significant effect on compliance at key congestion points in the city centre. Therefore this approval will extend the benefits gained from the pilot to current and future bus lanes in Leeds, maximising the value of the bus lane investment.”

Officers say the scheme will not cost the council a penny as fines will pay for the installation and maintenance of the network of cameras.

The executive board meets from 1pm next Wednesday.