Belfast bus lane enforcement excessive, says AA
Transport officials have been accused of treating commuters as "wallets on wheels" with their allegedly overzealous policing of Belfast's bus lanes.
The head of the UK's biggest motoring organisation said the heavy-handed approach should be urgently reviewed.
AA president Edmund King's comments came after the Belfast Telegraph reported how the cameras had raised more than £2.7m in their first 15 months.
One camera alone has scooped £1m in that period, having issued 18,000 fines.
Mr King was critical when this newspaper first reported on the high number of issued fines in September 2015, branding it outrageous.
He said the enforcement of the bus lanes was still far too excessive. "It seems that, one year on, the situation in Belfast still hasn't improved," Mr King told the Belfast Telegraph.
"It is clear that these bus lanes need to be reviewed urgently. Motorists should not be treated as wallets on wheels, so it is disappointing to see that one camera alone has issued nearly 18,000 fines.
"The fact that £2.7m has been charged to motorists over 15 months suggests that the scheme isn't working in its current form.
"Bus lanes can improve traffic flow in cities, but they must be coupled with clear signage and road markings in order to function correctly."
Bus lanes were introduced in 2012 as part of the Belfast on the Move traffic plan. Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes have faced a £90 fine, which is reduced to £45 if paid in two weeks.
Up to August 31 this year, a total of 51,811 penalty charge notices were issued. They were worth a combined £2,729,021 - or £6,245 a day on average.
One camera, at Donegall Square East beside City Hall, was responsible for 17,972 penalties being issued to city centre commuters in just 15 months.
That camera alone had generated fines totalling £975,242 by the end of August.
The other hotspots are Castle Street, where drivers have been issued with 14,184 fines, worth £706,366, and Great Victoria Street, where 8,167 fines worth £442,978 have been generated.
It has led to warnings that shoppers are being deterred from visiting Belfast.
Glyn Roberts, from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, said: "There is no doubt that headlines like we have seen this week will turn shoppers away.
"My fear is that it could have an impact approaching Christmas. I hope it won't, but it sends out entirely the wrong message."
Mr Roberts added an urgent review of bus lane enforcement was needed. He said he believed a yellow card system in which first-time offenders receive a warning, rather than a fine, would be a good first step.