Drivers who park in clearways or bus lanes face having their cars towed away — and then clamped.
Motorists will not only face a £90 parking fine but an additional payment to get their vehicle unclamped. But first they will have to find out where it is.
The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that when cars are removed from bus lanes, they will simply be taken to the nearest car park or street where parking is legal.
The ‘get tough’ move is the latest phase of Roads Minister Danny Kennedy’s plans to keep traffic moving, particularly in clogged-up Belfast city centre.
It comes just a few days after this newspaper disclosed proposals to put a special squad of traffic wardens on scooters in a bid to ease traffic congestion. In the year leading up to March 2012, more than 8,000 Penality Charge Notices (PCNs) were issued to drivers in clearways and bus lanes.
The Regional Development Minister on Monday denied conducting a war against Northern Ireland’s motorists, who faced massive delays after his Belfast On The Move initiative saw huge traffic jams round the city.
But Mr Kennedy admitted the need to “change the ethos and mindset” of the increasing numbers of motorists prepared to park in urban clearways and bus lanes.
He said: “I think this has broad support and people understand the need for enforcement.
“I have made it absolutely clear there is no war against motorists in Northern Ireland but we will all benefit from an improved transport system.”
The minister was supported by DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt, the chairman of the Regional Development Assembly committee.
Mr Spratt said: “Northern Ireland people are prone to thinking, ‘sure it won’t do much harm, I’ll just park here for five or 10 minutes’. But even a single car in a clearway can cause massive problems. I think there has to be a ‘zero tolerance’ approach. This will become increasingly important as and when a new rapid transport system is introduced.”
Mr Spratt rejected a suggestion that the plan amounts to a ‘congestion charge’.
He added: “My understanding is where it is parked in a clearway or bus lane it will be moved to the nearest car park or a street where parking is available.”
A statement from Mr Kennedy’s department added: “Currently, Roads Service clamps or removes vehicles only for debt recovery purposes.
“Vehicles will not be clamped when parked in bus lanes or urban clearways as this would prolong the duration of any obstruction being caused.”
- 7,138 — number of fixed Penalty Charge Notices for cars parked on clearways in Northern Ireland between April 2011 to March this year.
- 1, 011 — number of fixed PCNs to drivers in bus lanes in the same period.
- £19m — cost of Stormont’s parking enforcement contract for the last two years.
- £4.5m — income from fixed penalty notices in 2010-11, rising in 2011-12 to £4.6m.