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