May 30 2012 EXCLUSIVE by Joe McGuire
MOTORISTS are facing fines of nearly £1m just one month on from the introduction of a controversial bus lane enforcement scheme.
The city council has issued 15,369 penalty charges of £60 since enforcement began on April 23, amounting to £922,140 worth of pain for Glasgow drivers.
Drivers can pay less by handing over the cash quickly, and some are expected to appeal.
And though the council says that figure is 5000 less than they anticipated, city motorists say they have been left confused by the system.
One west end driver told The Glaswegian: “It seems a bit draconian to me. It’s very easy to stray into a bus lane on parts of Great Western Road as the bus lane appears and disappears.
“I really can’t afford to pay a £60 fine in this climate.”
Edinburgh City Council also introduced new bus lane cameras last month and was forced into a humiliating U-Turn last week, tearing up thousands of fines and removing cameras after complaints from motorists.
Neil Greig, Director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, has been dealing with Edinburgh motorists “fury”. But he believes Glasgow has been less affected, saying: “The feedback I’ve got in Glasgow is that those who have received tickets have not been so upset as those in Edinburgh, there’s not been any appealing.
“To me that suggests Glasgow has the location of the cameras right and they’re only catching those who are abusing the bus lanes”
But he admits the numbers concerned do trouble him, saying : “I have to say when you’re getting almost 16000 you do have to start questioning if the sign posting is clear enough, drivers understanding of the system is clear enough and road markings are clear enough.
“Are they catching people through ignorance rather than people who are deliberately going down the bus lane?
“If you start to get a million pound a month income the council will start to rely on that and you don’t want enforcement and income linked.”
He recommended that if the same numbers of people are being caught two or three months down the line the council educate drivers more and provide clearer signposting.
AA spokesperson Luke Bosdeta also agreed that initially a higher number of people would be caught out but admitted initially no system would be perfect.
He said: “Camera enforcement in London has been going on for years now and is accepted; drivers stay out of bus lanes.
“The only issue [with cameras] is loss of discretion, for example if people break down or if there has been an accident in the lane next to the bus lane forcing people to nip into the bus lane.
“I do think 15,000 is quite a hefty punch.
“Where a large number of people are being caught and there is confusion...then maybe the authority needs to go have a look and see if it is not the fault of the motorist but of the way the camera enforcement and signage has been set up.”
Bosdet also said the scheme would need a strong appeal process.
A Taxpayers’ Alliance spokeswoman said: “This does look a lot like a revenue raiser if the potential is there to squeeze so much money out of our motorists. Proper signposting should be enough to dissuade people from using bus lanes.”
The Council said that their month-long awareness campaign had an impact on numbers caught out.
Councillor Jim Coleman, executive member for Sustainability and Transport, said: “The minority of drivers who abuse bus lanes inconvenience others and cause frustration as well as threatening the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other road users.
“We ran a month long awareness raising campaign over newspapers, radio, billboards, online and on the back of buses to ensure people knew of the enforcement scheme.The first month’s lower than expected number of violations clearly shows that our message has had an impact.
“We believe civil enforcement will help lower the number of offences in Glasgow, improve the flow of traffic on a number of congested stretches and improve the reliability of bus journeys on some key routes.”
SPT chief executive Gordon Maclennan said: “Enforcement cameras have a positive effect and it is encouraging to see they are already making a difference.”