‘Are drivers too harshly punished’? Manchester councils ‘ruthlessly’ rake in £2million in bus lane fines

Exclusive by Matt Scrafton & Reece Lawrence

A whopping £2million in bus lane fines was ‘ruthlessly’ raked in by two Greater Manchester councils last year – pocketing an average of more than £5,000 a day.

Manchester Council issued 48,494 bus lane penalty charge notices, totalling £1.375million between April 1 2012 and March 31 2013.

In Bury, £522,973 was raised from more than 8,000 penalty charge notices for infringing on bus lanes in the area.

The chairman of the Local Government Association transport board, David Sparks, also revealed in February that councils are pushing up parking charges to ease the pressure on their budgets.

Paul Pearson, of, said: “Councils are very ruthless. I suspect in Manchester they are catching out people, and I doubt so many people are knowingly being caught out.

“We’re astonished. It shows how desperate they are to raise money.”

He added that quite often, bus lanes were longer than they should be and that many of them were not necessary.

Manchester City Council and Bury Council are currently the only two authorities in Greater Manchester that enforce bus lane fines.

Councillor Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for the environment, said the bus lanes exist for a reason.

“Manchester has a large number of bus lanes which are provided to ensure that public transport operates effectively, he said.

“All of these lanes are clearly marked along with signs informing motorist of the times of operation.

“There is also a clearly defined appeal process that motorists can use.”

The penalty charge notice constitutes any vehicle illegally driving in a bus lane – with the two councils raising £158,164-a-month in total.

Overall 2,899 motorists challenged the issue of their penalty charge notice – with over a quarter of them successful.

Bury Council were not able to provide the same figures for the number of appeals they had received and were also unavailable for comment.

However, Sean Corker from the Alliance of British Drivers was critical of the council’s policy on bus lanes, adding that most people see the fines as little more than council revenue-raising.

He said: “Automated fining systems don’t differentiate between genuine mistakes and more serious problems.

“This and other issues such as parking pricing and enforcement will foster resentment and deter people from visiting Manchester.”

Mr Pearson said one of the main complaints his website received was about the lack of clear signs for bus lanes, and suggested that in the future there would only be more authorities enforcing them.

He added: “It’s amazing how many bus lanes are not compliant, quite often people turn left and suddenly they’re there.”

Mr Corker added: “Are drivers too harshly punished? Let us not forget that drivers are ordinary members of the public and that parking charges, bus lanes fines and fuel costs come out of the same pot of money as Council Tax and other household bills.”

Picture courtesy of Damien Roué via Flickr, with thanks.

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