Bus lane cameras ‘money-making racket’ for council

The council has bagged �1m from drivers. Picture: Greg Macvean

The council has bagged �1m from drivers. Picture: Greg Macvean

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BUS lane cameras have been branded a money-making racket after it emerged that no-one has been monitoring their effect on journey times.

When the scheme was launched in April 2012, council chiefs boasted that buses would travel quicker around the city – but in almost two years since, no statistical data has been compiled.

Almost £1 million has been raised from fining several thousand motorists caught in bus lanes by the controversial cameras, prompting the council to last week hail the scheme a “success”.

But despite this it has emerged that neither the council nor Lothian Buses have been monitoring the effect of the cameras on bus journey times – despite a clear statement on the council website boasting that “the cameras help improve bus journey times”.

Motoring groups insisted this proves the intention of the cameras was purely to boost the council’s coffers – with penalised drivers being slapped with £60 fines.

Neil Greig, from the Institute of Advance Motorists, said: “It’s incredible. How can they possibly judge success by any means other than the number of fines handed out? The council need to reconsider this scheme unless they can provide positive data to show how it has improved bus journey times.

“We always said that the council should never use penalty fines income as guaranteed income in terms of the transport budget.”

Council figures show that while the number of camera sites has increased, the number of infringements has fallen significantly, from 3256 in the first month of operation to 2060 last December.

The scheme was hailed a success in the city council’s Transport Strategy 2014-2019, which was released last week, with plans now being mooted to introduce more cameras.

But Brian MacDowall, of the Alliance of British Drivers, insisted those plans should be put on the back burner.

He said: “This has all the hallmarks of a money-raising scheme. Hard data into the effect of these cameras on journey times should be provided before a further rollout is even considered.”

Use of the cameras has come in for fierce criticism from motorists – particularly as the council takes a hard line on drivers straying into bus lanes for just a few seconds. Drivers who slip in and out of an empty bus lane to avoid stationary cars waiting to turn right, for instance, have had their appeals refused.

City transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “It has never been legal to drive in a bus lane during restricted hours and issuing penalties is our way of policing this.

“We have a priority for public transport in Edinburgh and these measures are about maintaining the smooth operation and reliability of our buses by reducing the potential for congestion and bottlenecks.

“We consulted with bus operators before starting the scheme to find where their problem areas were before introducing the cameras.”

Bill Campbell, operations director of Lothian Buses, said: “Public transport customers benefit from effective bus priority measures and Lothian Buses supports council initiatives to ensure compliance with them.”