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Belfast Telegraph behind victory for common sense as overnight bus lane curbs are lifted

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 15/11/2016

The 24-hour bus lane at Belfast Central Station
The 24-hour bus lane at Belfast Central Station

Motorists will no longer be fined for driving in a bus lane outside Belfast's Central Station at night, it was announced yesterday.

Officials announced a u-turn on their policy of punishing offenders at night on East Bridge Street. It follows complaints about the camera operating 24 hours a day - even though buses do not run at night.

Yesterday's announcement came hours after the Belfast Telegraph reported how more than 100 penalty charge notices had been issued at this location since June 2015.

One motorist said they had been caught twice in the space of 30 minutes after midnight at East Bridge Street.

The bus lane will now only be restricted from 7am to 7pm, in line with most others in the city.

Two other 24-hour cameras, on the Upper Newtownards Road and the Saintfield Road at Forestside, will also have their hours reduced.

In total, more than 2,000 people have been fined for driving in Belfast's bus lanes between the hours of midnight and 6am.

Some 115 fines were issued on East Bridge Street and a further 2,090 were issued at Castle Street.

Bus services do not run at night in the city centre. The last one ends before midnight.

DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said a review into Belfast's bus lanes was urgently needed, claiming there was a lack of common sense from officials.

"The amount of fines handed out for people using the lanes is shocking," he said.

"Currently the system is rigid, with no wriggle room for those who in some circumstances need to use the bus lanes either for safe drop-off points, or in cases of emergency.

"There is a lack of common sense with the approach to the use of bus lanes. Particularly in this case, when people use bus lanes overnight.

"There are no buses operational through the night and to fine someone upwards of £90 is absurd."

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: "A review of all 24 hour bus lanes took place in March.

"It recommended that three of the 24 hour bus lanes could be amended to 7am to 7pm, including East Bridge Street, Saintfield Road at Forestside and Upper Newtownards Road.

"Legislation is currently being prepared to enable these changes to be made.

"In relation to Castle Street, it operates under a Control of Traffic Order, meaning it is a no-entry street for general traffic. However, Minister [Chris] Hazzard has asked officials to look at the restrictions within this area of Belfast to ascertain if changes to existing prohibitions can be made."

The department also said the bus lanes were a normal aspect of modern cities with efficient public transport systems.

"Bus lanes are an important element in keeping city traffic flowing well and a vital benefit for the many thousands of users who opt to travel by bus to school, work or for pleasure," it added.

"Filling one bus with passengers equates to the removal of around 50 cars from our roads, that is a queue of cars about 1/3 km long."

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