£1.33million in fines issued at controversial 'bus gate' in South Tyneside after 22,000 drivers caught in just two years
More than 22,000 motoring fines - netting council chiefs up to £1.33million - have been issued at a controversial camera-monitored South Tyneside bus lane in just two years, latest figures show.
They reveal 9,034 penalty notices were sent to drivers in the past 12 months – or almost 25 a day – for offences at the 20m-long stretch at Edinburgh Road, on the Scotch Estate, Jarrow.
These come on top of 13,156 issued between July 2017, when the bus lane went “live” as part of the £7.5million John Reid Road and Lindisfarne Roundabout upgrade scheme, and June 2018.
The tally, revealed under a Freedom of Information request, includes 3,095 fines imposed since warning signs were modified in January amid a public uproar.
The following month saw the lowest ever number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) - at 512 – before jumps to 730 in March, 627 in April and 703 in May, with last month’s figure standing at 525.
Former Independent councillor Lee Hughes, a past critic of the road layout, said he accepted South Tyneside Council had made the necessary improvements to the site, known as a “bus gate”.
But he added: “The problem seems to be with motorists who are not from South Tyneside and who do not know the road layout.
“The wording on the signs says ‘local’, which means only local bus services, and not even coaches, can use the bus lane.
“The council has done what it needed to do, albeit a year-and-a-half too late.”
Retired army captain Ralph Jackson, 71, of Highfield Road, South Shields, who in February 2018 failed to overturn his £60 fine, said: “It’s a lot of money for the council to make.
“Bus lanes are a good thing, but they have to be signed so that people know they have not to go through.
“You’ll always get the odd driver who doesn’t care about the fine, but for the majority of people it’s down to a genuine mistake.
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“We will have to see if these signs really work for the majority.”
At its peak in August 2017, 3,032 PCNs were issued, and the count hit more than 1,000 in each month between January and May 2018, and also that July.
Anyone who drives into the lane faces a £60 fine, reduced to £30 if paid within a fortnight.
If all fines were paid at the earliest opportunity, the council will have netted £665,000.
In January last year, the UK’s traffic fines regulator said the signs were inadequate – and overturned a £60 fine against an 80-year-old female motorist.
A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: “The Edinburgh Road exit was closed to vehicles except buses to enhance safety as part of the Lindisfarne junction improvement scheme.
“This is an extremely busy stretch of road and if motorists continue to exit via this route there is a real danger there will be an accident.
“The bus gate at Edinburgh Road is clearly signed and has always complied with the requisite Department for Transport regulations.
“However, we decided to introduce extra signs and road markings earlier this year to help reduce the number of vehicles using the bus gate and mitigate safety risk.
"Vehicle owners have the right to appeal if they feel the ticket has been wrongly issued. Details on how to do so can be found on the reverse of the Penalty Charge Notice.
“Ideally, we would not have to issue any fines, however exiting via Edinburgh Road is both illegal and unsafe and we would encourage motorists to observe the restrictions.”