Revealed: One driver fined £4k after being caught in Belfast bus lanes 91 times
A single motorist has been fined a staggering 91 times for driving in Belfast's bus lanes in just 10 months. The motorist has accumulated at least £4,000 worth of penalties in that period.
Another driver was caught on 42 separate occasions, and a third was fined 36 times.
They are among dozens of people receiving multiple penalties since a crackdown began last summer.
It comes as new figures show more than 40,000 vehicles have been clocked driving in the city's bus lanes in the past 10 months.
The total value of fines has now topped £1.5m.
One street - Donegall Square East - has produced £630,000 worth of fines alone.
It has led to warnings that over-zealous enforcement will drive shoppers from the city.
Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said the figures were "astonishing".
"I have a real and genuine worry that it will be off-putting to people coming into Belfast," he said.
Details of bus lane fines were released by the Department for Regional Development after a Freedom of Information request.
Between June 22 last year and May 3, a total of 42,055 fines were issued for driving in 32 bus lanes across Belfast - 133 a day on average.
The worst hotspots for fines were:
- Donegall Square East - 16,677 fines worth £631,878.
- Castle Street - 11,940 fines worth £403,824.
- Great Victoria Street - 6,114 fines worth £244,617.
- East Bridge Street - 2,222 fines worth £90,269.
- College Square East - 2,050 fines worth £76,332.
In total, fines worth £1,561,057 were issued.
The Belfast Telegraph also obtained details about cars which were fined more than once.
- 147 vehicles were caught more than five times.
- 44 vehicles were caught more than 10 times.
- And 31 vehicles were caught more than 20 times.
The highest number of bus lane offences by the same vehicle was a staggering 91.
That is the equivalent of being caught once every three days. The DRD confirmed it was not a vehicle with authorisation to use a bus lane, such as an unmarked police car.
The minimum fine is £45, if paid within a fortnight, meaning that car alone will have accumulated fines of at least £4,095.
Mr Roberts sits on the Belfast Rapid Transit forum, which is a liaison group between DRD and key stakeholders. He said he had raised concerns about the high number of penalties being issued.
"I have raised the need to be sensitive and not adopt an over-zealous approach," he added.
"As much as we support, in principle, the rapid transit project, I do worry about the sheer number of tickets."
The Belfast Telegraph recently reported how almost 35,000 parking tickets were dished out in a 12-month period across Belfast.
Some 2,195 were handed out on the busy Lisburn Road alone.
Mr Roberts said: "We already have a clear problem in excessive ticketing for car parking.
"The worry is that the safer option, in the minds of shoppers, is to go to the big out-of-town stores.
"They don't have to worry about the red coats, the parking is free, and it's a safer option.
"That is the last thing that traders in Belfast city centre or any of its arterial routes want to hear."
Ukip's Northern Ireland leader David McNarry - a strong critic of Belfast's bus lanes - said he was "gobsmacked" at the number of fines.
He cited the car caught 91 times as evidence that drivers were rebelling against the system.
"It seems we have serial offenders, and the reason is pretty clear - you can't travel through our beloved city without falling foul of this nonsensical and abusive restriction on motorists," he said.
A spokesperson for the DRD said: "The purpose of the bus lane enforcement measures is to reduce the number of unauthorised vehicles driving in bus lanes to improve the reliability and punctuality of our public transport system.
"The number of penalty charge notices issued, and the revenue received, will therefore depend upon driver behaviour.
"These measures are not aimed at raising revenue.
"People will not face a penalty charge as long as they do not drive in the bus lanes when they are operational.
"We would question why any driver would repeatedly ignore bus lane regulations in the knowledge they will continue to receive charges."
DRD said money raised helps finance the services it provides.
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