Belfast's 'excessive' bus lane penalties deterring visitors as 4,894 are hit by fines
A single camera is responsible for more than a third of fines issued to motorists who drove in Belfast's bus lanes.
Some 4,894 penalties were dished out for bus lane offences in the first three months of 2017.
Over a third (1,786) occurred on Donegall Square East, which runs alongside Belfast City Hall.
Motorists caught driving in bus lanes can face fines of up to £90, meaning this camera alone could have generated £160,740 in just three months.
A fifth of the fines (1,027) related to Great Victoria Street, with College Square East accounting for a further 807.
The figures, released by the Department for Infrastructure, will reopen the debate on bus lanes.
South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford claimed excessive fines were deterring shoppers from visiting the city.
"Unfortunately as a consequence of Government decisions, a lot of people are being deterred from the centre of Belfast," he said.
"These bus lane cameras, along with the parking regime, are having the effect of putting people off.
"I know people will say that you should use public transport to get into the city centre, but for people with families that isn't possible.
"I have three children and the logistics of transporting me, my wife and three children under the age of seven - one of whom would be in a buggy - into the city centre is just not practical or reasonable.
"We need a more flexible approach that allows people to get into the city centre and travel around without fining them."
Figures released yesterday also show:
- 20,502 fines were issued for on-street parking offences, with just over two-fifths (41%) issued in Belfast;
- 8,396 fines were issued for off-street parking offences. This ranged from a high of 1,184 in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to 162 in Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council;
- Other hotspots for bus lane fines include Donegall Square South (535) and East Bridge Street (162).
Bus lanes were introduced in 2012 as part of the Belfast on the Move traffic plan.
There are now more than 60 situated across the city.
Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes face a £90 fine, reduced to £45 if paid within two weeks.
Fixed enforcement cameras operate in Belfast at Donegall Square South, Donegall Square East, Great Victoria Street, East Bridge Street and College Square East. A mobile CCTV vehicle enforces other bus lanes during their operational hours.
Last November, it was announced that three 24-hour bus lanes would be scrapped.
It comes after the Belfast Telegraph reported how more than 2,000 people had been fined for driving in bus lanes between midnight and 6am.
The Department for Infrastructure said: "The aim of parking and bus lane enforcement is to reduce the number of vehicles illegally parked on our roads or driving in bus lanes or other bus priority measures.
"This in turn reduces traffic congestion and helps traffic to flow more freely, assists delivery vehicles, allows buses to keep to their timetable and improves bus journey times, improves road safety and provides accessibility for all road users, including Blue Badge holders.
"The enforcement of on-street limited waiting and pay and display spaces, Park and Ride charged car parks and council operated car parks also encourages a turnover of parking spaces, giving shoppers and visitors more opportunities to find suitable parking."