INEFFECTIVE stretches of Edinburgh’s 40-mile bus lane network will be removed and several camera sites altered as part of a major review into enforcement of the city’s Greenways.
Two bus lanes with 24-hour operations will also be considered for rush-hour enforcement only and a more lenient approach to fines will be taken under new guidelines by city transport chiefs.
A wide-ranging review published today confirmed there were a number of flaws in the enforcement system, including some drivers being charged before cameras were meant to be operational.
The review is a victory for the Evening News, which has questioned the operation of the cameras from the beginning.
Improvements to the camera enforcement system – which was introduced in April and led to an outcry due to widely-publicised flaws – also include greater provision for drivers turning right across Greenways lanes at busy junctions.
Thousands of drivers were fined up to £60 when caught out crossing lanes inadvertently in heavy traffic. Recommendations for a shake-up of the lanes across the city have been made, with axing ineffective stretches of the route among the most significant.
Mark Turley, director of the communities department at Edinburgh City Council, wrote to members of the city’s transport committee: “Traffic levels and patterns have clearly changed since many of the 65 kilometres of bus lanes were first introduced and ineffective bus lanes, where buses get marginal or gain no advantage and which also cause localised congestion will be removed.”
Among those Greenways which may cause more disruption than good is Leith Walk, which city transport leader Lesley Hinds has previously suggested scrapping. Setting back bus lanes from bus line junctions to avoid catching drivers out is also among the new suggestions.
Mr Turley added: “Bus lane setbacks [the distance from the end of the bus lane to the stop line at junctions] will be reviewed where there is heavy right-turning traffic at junctions that suffer from regular congestion, and the bus lane setback adjusted where necessary to improve traffic flows through the junction while still maintaining bus priority.”
Transport officials will involve police officers, the cycling group Spokes and other parties in ensuring the system is more manageable. Residents will also be involved in some of the decisions.
Greenways were introduced in 1997 at a cost of £8 million to allow buses to cut through congestion, and can be used by black cabs, cyclists and the emergency services. Police oversaw enforcement until February when the Scottish Government decriminalised bus lanes and allowed local authorities to issue £60 fixed penalty notices instead.
However, motorists reported being fined for minor infringements, while one disabled minibus driver working for the council was landed with 27 fines.
Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, ordered an immediate review of the camera deployment with thousands of fines later being quashed.
Glasgow City Council also introduced a similar system with 11 cameras, which was regarded as a success but came under fire for raking in £1m in just 11 weeks. Despite this, Edinburgh officials asked their Glasgow counterparts to help scrutinise the report released today. The city’s Greenways network measures around 40 miles in length, but only ten sites have been earmarked for camera enforcement, with five cameras deployed on a rota.
At present, two cameras are deployed on Calder Road in West Edinburgh and one on London Road east of the city centre. The pair of cameras at Willowbrae – which were axed after catching residents every time they drove into or from Willowbrae Avenue – will be returned although officials will consult with those living in the area about the move.
The inbound camera will be placed closer to the Jock’s Lodge junction.
On North Bridge, the proposed camera site is being removed over concerns it would catch hotel guests or private hire drivers being dropped off or picked up at the Carlton Hotel. On Leith Street, cameras will not become operational until tram works are completed.
The all-day bus lanes at Prestonfield and The Jewel may be scaled back to rush-hour only operation. Both have however been given approval for cameras to be installed.
There will be two weeks of issuing warning notices followed by a further week to allow for delivery of warning notices, before each camera goes live. Estimated costs of £20,000 to make the recommended changes will be funded from the revenue from bus lanes.
Councillor Hinds said: “I’m pleased to see lessons have been learned and that these will be applied to how the scheme works in future. Clearly, the reason we asked for a review was because we wanted to be assured that the bus lanes are going to be managed effectively.”