CAMERAS set up a year ago to monitor the city’s Greenways are set to generate more than £1 million for the public purse.
New figures show the council has already collected £851,246 in fines from the bus lane enforcement scheme brought in last March – despite waiving thousands of erroneous penalties as the system bedded in.
A total of 32,832 fines – not including those which have since been waived – have been issued from five mobile and two fixed devices since the scheme began, with the local authority set to net over £1m once all fines have been paid.
The figures were revealed as the local authority announced plans to introduce Greenway cameras along ten more major bus routes, and said all money raised would be re-invested into improving the city’s transport systems.
But critics have hit out at the proposals, warning that automated surveillance discriminates against courteous drivers and penalises drivers who make unwitting mistakes.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said he was “shocked” bus lane enforcement was spawning a million pound windfall.
He said: “Edinburgh Council did rather get their fingers burnt when they tried this first time round. In one way it’s good they have waited and learned their lessons but I think most Edinburgh drivers will be shocked that this is raising £1m for the council.
“In our view the best camera earns no money but keeps people out of the bus lane. This figure suggests signposting is still an issue.
“The main worry is the authority gets used to this kind of income and won’t want to let it go by making things easier for drivers. It makes the whole thing sound like a money-making scheme when it’s supposed to be about keeping the buses running smoothly.”
But transport chiefs argued bus lane infringements had dropped 90 per cent since the cameras were introduced and improved travel times.
The News revealed on Wednesday that ten extra cameras were set to be installed at Greenways with significant levels of traffic while “dummy” devices would be mounted to “maximise the deterrent”.
They come one year after a first tranche of surveillance equipment was introduced into Capital bus lanes, sparking outcry when thousands of drivers were erroneously fined by two cameras at Willowbrae Road. Four weeks after the project went live, transport chiefs were forced to waive every penalty charge issued on the route.
The additional devices will be introduced gradually if given the green light by councillors on June 4.
Paul Watters, head of roads policy for the AA, said enforcement cameras “fail to take into account people’s everyday driving woes”.
He said: “Not all of the penalty notices issued will have been through deliberate acts. The problem with camera technology in bus lanes is that it doesn’t recognise a simple mistake, it automatically tickets everyone and drivers in Edinburgh are still adjusting to this.
“Where there is heavy camera enforcement you don’t drive as a courteous driver any more, you drive to the letter of the rule book. We have argued that this is intelligent technology which can be used intelligently by local authorities by checking out where the problem hotspots are but they rarely do.”
Councillor Lesley Hinds, transport convener, said: “Edinburgh’s bus lane camera system is designed to target irresponsible drivers that illegally use bus lanes during restricted times. These measures keep public transport moving freely and operate successfully in other large cities across the country.
“The revenue gained from fines is reinvested into improving the Capital’s transport system and we know the amount collected last year is comparable to other local authorities. Most importantly, however, this system has proved it works and we’ve seen a 90 per cent reduction in bus lane infringements since cameras were introduced last year.”
A spokesman from Lothian Buses said: “Having the bus lanes clear helps to ensure our services run more efficiently, ensuring we continue to provide a quality service for all our customers across the city.”
Green light for one-way system
A ONE-WAY system to enhance “people space” in the city centre is set to go ahead with new measures to minimise the loss of parking spaces.
The vision for central Edinburgh also aims to remove planning shackles from Princes Street, with bars and restaurants expected to emerge in a new pedestrianised environment.
It will launch as a one-year trial when the trams finally hit the streets of the Capital. It is expected that the start date for the trams will be announced in September.
A crucial change to plans will see the north side of George Street earmarked for buses and public transport rather than the south side following concerns raised about parking space losses in the thoroughfare.
Proposals also include:
• A temporary extension of the footway of George Street and Princes Street;
• Accommodation of a two-way cycle route on George Street;
• A one-way system for general traffic and buses in an eastbound direction on George Street;
• A one-way system for buses, taxis and cycles in a westbound direction on Princes Street.
Transport convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said the council altered its original plans in response to a public consultation that demonstrated a “clear desire for change”.
She said: “The status quo is simply not an option.
“We need to show leadership and create a vision for how the heart of Edinburgh will work in the future and this trial will help us to do that.”
Six weeks of consultation was carried out canvassing the views of more than 2000 people, including businesses and retailers.
Councillor Ian Perry, planning convener, said residents were united in the need to make both streets more pedestrian-friendly. “We also want to improve facilities for cyclists,” he said.
“I remember that opinion was split before we pedestrianised part of the High Street but that too was trialled and has been a great success.”
If passed at City Chambers on June 4, the plan will see a monitoring group established to scrutinise the scheme’s success over the 12-month trial.
Economy convener Cllr Frank Ross said: “We know there are concerns from the business community, among others, about how this is going to be implemented and the potential impact on trade. It’s important to stress that this will be a trial that aims to see how this will work in practice.
“However, I’m sure we can all agree that we need a vibrant city centre that shows off Edinburgh at its best.”