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Thousands snapped by Plymouth bus lane cameras that generate £45 a minute

By Plymouth Herald  |  Posted: November 02, 2012

  • A bus lane camera on Tavistock Road

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New cameras targeting motorists who veer into bus lanes are generating more than £45 a minute in fines, The Herald can reveal.

The council has been accused of using enforcement cameras “like cash machines”, as fines land on thousands of doormats.

The cameras were turned on along six city roads in August as part of a clampdown on rule-breaking drivers.

Figures released to The Herald show they generated nearly half a million pounds in fines in their first month alone. Motorists are being snapped using bus lanes at an extraordinary rate of more than one per minute – each offence landing them with a £60 penalty charge notice (PCN). If paid within two weeks, the cost is ‘discounted’ by a half.

Plymouth’s transport boss says those flouting road rules were warned – and have “no excuse”.

But campaign groups have expressed concern at the alarming number caught on film.

The enforcement scheme was announced in March by the council’s former Conservative administration. Cameras went active on August 13 and the first PCNs were sent out ten days later.

The council says 7,402 vehicles were photographed in bus lanes in the first month alone – 224 each day. That equates to a whopping £444,120 in fines, potentially earning the council £93.42 a minute – or £1.56 every second – based on the non-discounted penalty fine of £60. Even if everyone paid up within the discounted period, the first month of operation is still set to net the council £222,060. That equates to £46.71 a minute, or 78p per second.

Figures given to The Herald yesterday show that from August 13 to October 25, 15,555 motorists were caught. All the cash pocketed from PCNs will be pumped into transport improvements, the local authority said.

The National Motorists Action Group said it was concerned the council could be treating the cameras “like cash machines”.

Rupert Lipton told The Herald: “The question is to what degree is this about raising revenue? No council is allowed by law to introduce PCNs for any reason other than road safety or traffic management. If a local authority has a situation like Plymouth City Council, where large amounts of people are transgressing and in turn filling the council coffers, it shows it isn’t working. We suspect councils in situations like this are treating these devices as instant cash machines.”

A council-led bus lane ‘education and awareness campaign’ was launched in March in partnership with bus companies, the police, licensed trade and contractors Amey.

A report at the time suggesting enforcement cameras said their aims were to “encourage compliance” with existing rules, aid “bus punctuality”, support public transport and improve safety.

Council officers said the scheme would cost £1,000 to advertise and implement, though an extra £2,981.61 was later spent amending the necessary traffic regulation order.

Councillor Mark Coker, the council’s Cabinet member for transport, said although thousands of fines had been issued around 99.96 of vehicles kept out of bus lanes in the period to September 14.

“We have been pleased to see that the overwhelming majority of motorists are complying with bus lane restrictions,” he said.

“However, the remaining 0.004 per cent equated to 7,402 contraventions in the first month and this misuse is a significant problem, both in terms of road safety and journey times for all road users. Our bus lanes and gates are clearly marked and there really is no excuse for ignoring the restrictions.”

The council has 28 days to issue the fines but aims to send them out within two weeks.

Cllr Coker confirmed the cash would all be “reinvested into the delivery of transport services in the city”.

A council spokesman said yesterday: “There were 15,555 contraventions between August 13 and October 25 but, like other cities using similar enforcement measures, we are already seeing a significant and steady reduction in deterring bus lane misuse. We expect this downward trend to continue over the coming months.”

However, other motorists’ organisation also expressed concern at the figures.

Paul Waters, head of roads policy at The AA, said many councils introducing the enforcement had sent those caught on camera warning letters for several weeks before resorting to issuing fines. There will be some who say the rules are the rules,” Mr Waters said. “Others might say there is an element of unfairness.”

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  • robocop1982  |  November 06 2012, 3:51AM

    i think taxis should be stopped from using bus lanes also. bus lane should be for buses only.

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  • jimqedelec  |  November 05 2012, 11:33AM

    Isn't it sad that our happy-go lucky councillors can see fit to hive off our airport to their friends at Sutton Harbour and lose millions of pounds of potential profit for the city, whilst at the same time charging us plebs extra for the privilege of using our own roads. It has ****** all to do with transport efficiency or road safety as some of the bus drivers go like lunatics up the bus lanes and then charge out at the end of them as if they own the whole road. It is not as if we do not pay enough on council tax, road tax, fuel duty et al, but we are now being stung for using certain parts of our badly maintained roads. The profit lost to a private company (Sutton Harbour) is criminal and should be investigated. If the city is struggling for funds why did they give away one of our biggest assets and why do we no longer have a working airport. We are in danger of becoming a backwater thanks to the council.

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  • TarmacJunkie  |  November 05 2012, 10:22AM

    If someone is queue-jumping or obstructing other traffic in a bus lane then a fine seems deserved, but if it's just a case of crossing into the lane a few yards (metres) prematurely to a clear exit causing no impact on designated users then it achieves no purpose other than revenue-generation - which is not what the legislation is designed for. Whilst not a regular rush-hour user of Plymouth roads, I cannot remember seeing any instances of buses being blocked by illegitimate use of these lanes - although given the standard of driving I see in general, I'm sure it does happen. I seem to remember from some time ago that cameras were being put on buses to record vehicles obstucting them in bus lanes; what happened then? - probably not enough people actually causing obstruction to bring much in fines! I believe that if the lane is empty it is quite acceptable to travel in it to a clear exit, especially if this eases congestion on the main carriageway and thus reduces everyone's queueing time. Obviously there will be the usual clamour of "the law is the law" from certain contributors (@fazer58), but ultimately the law is what society in general demands and accepts, and can be changed or interpreted accordingly if so wished - eg the Community Charge (Poll Tax), the criminalisation of 'squatting'. I would urge anyone who receives a penalty they believe is (morally) unjustified (@phall_lee) to respond to the council accordingly, and if enough cases then have to go to adjudication it should highlight the situation.

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  • mcspredder  |  November 04 2012, 10:05PM

    Why fixed cameras? Why not put video cameras in the buses, front and rear facing. Fines could be sent out for bus lane transgressions and the standard of bus driving should improve immensely as the recordings would show up any bullying driving by bus drivers at the end of bus lanes when they weren't there first. I can't understand why taxis have the use of bus lanes - a journey involves a vehicle with driver only on board covering some distance to collect a fare and doing the same thing again to return the fare to their home. Using your own car means two fewer journeys for the same trip. The other funny scenario is a line of buses in the bus lane crawling behind a bicycle.

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  • fazer58  |  November 04 2012, 4:57PM

    As usual bleats of outrage from people who have broken the law and got fined for it.Usual advice applies,don't drive in bus Lanes and you'll never,ever get a fine for driving in a Bus Lane,not difficult is it? I'm sick of avoiding (so far) road users who are selfish or don't don't pay attention to what they're doing.If driving to their usual standards,i.e totally oblivious to road signs and other road users,costs them money,great.Maybe,just maybe, their behaviour costing them a few quid might just have them paying more attention in future. I think there should be more cameras not less,hit the texters,tail-gaters and boy racers in the pocket as well. As for the usual "cash machines" rant,same argument,if people didn't break the law the Council wouldn't make a penny out of them,just think of it as a stupidity tax.

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  • Vinnie_Gar  |  November 04 2012, 8:53AM

    The problem with enforcement cameras of any sort is that they are seen as income generation devices. Because of this they have lost public support and in this country we are policed by consent. If, for a first offence, the offender had to attend a re-education briefing (2 hours on a Saturday morning perhaps), then I think they would be more acceptable. Of course, that would reduce the income generated though so I can't see it happening. The council has an interest in keeping offending rates high which is fundamentally wrong.

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  • gedonyajanner  |  November 04 2012, 8:21AM

    I watched with some sadistic satisfaction yesterday as 2 cars not wanting to obay the rules of the road chose to drive down the bus lane opposite M&S and pizza hut in derriford. Mah hahahaha

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  • TheMercenary  |  November 04 2012, 4:55AM

    @DrivenMad. Excellent comment. Over the years of using that stretch of road approaching Derriford from the south, I recognise the same cars doing this constantly. Another thing that annoys me, is the driver that approaches the roundabout at speed in the lane to turn right and at the last minute cuts across, taking away the piece of road I've left between me and the car in front. They think they're so clever but at the end of the day, they are very poor drivers. at the roundabout

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  • 147ref  |  November 03 2012, 11:38PM

    who counted the traffic, 99.96% of drivers kepted out of bus lane .04% or 7402 caught, me think someone telling porkies

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  • jabbathebutt  |  November 03 2012, 10:33PM

    @yippiekiyay ... brilliant idea - let all - even public transport come to a complete halt twice a day for two hours .... NOT !. Dont blame taxi drivers or busses . Blame the ones that organise these "vital" works ,so "vital" that they do office hours on it and dissapear for the weekend and that includes the council and the contractors for their complete ignorance towards you as a driver and the ridiculous answers they give for not having larger gangs and working more hours . That is why you are stuck for three months in a jam that could have been sorted in one month . Plus... no doubt ,the fee charged for this debacle would have been hard to justify if it had only been for a few weeks .

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