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Revealed: Which Northern Ireland bus lane camera raised £1m in fines in 15 months?

Number of penalties issued now tops 50,000

By Adrian Rutherford

Published 26/09/2016

The Donegall Square East camera
The Donegall Square East camera
The Donegall Square East camera

This is the camera which has generated an incredible £1m in bus lane fines in just over a year.

Situated at Donegall Square East, it is responsible for 18,000 penalties being issued to city centre commuters in just 15 months.

On an average day the bus lane will raise around £2,700.

It comes as new figures reveal the number of vehicles caught driving in the lanes has passed the 50,000 mark.

In total, the cameras have generated more than £2.7m since last June.

Officials had estimated they would raise £500,000 a year.

The most prolific camera is at Donegall Square East, which runs alongside City Hall.

In the 15 months to August 31 this year, it had resulted in 17,972 penalty charge notices - worth a staggering £975,242.

Based on the daily average of £2,669, the total will now have passed £1m.

The other hotspots are:

Belfast bus lane fines
Belfast bus lane fines
  • Castle Street: 14,184 fines worth £706,366;
  • Great Victoria Street: 8,167 fines worth £442,978;
  • East Bridge Street: 3,383 fines worth £178,199;
  • And College Square East: 3,273 fines worth £177,700.

The figures were released by the Department for Infrastructure after a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph.

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.

Last week a consultation was announced for new lanes at Albertbridge Road between Castlereagh Street and the Newtownards Road.

Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes face a £90 fine, 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.

It has led to fresh warnings that a heavy-handed approach is driving people out of Belfast.

UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said the bus lanes had been a disaster for the city.

"These bus lanes definitely have not been a success for Belfast," he said.

"They have brought about more traffic congestion than before, and are driving people out of the capital city of Northern Ireland."

Mr Rodgers said the bus lanes had added to congestion, not reduced it.

"They are contributing to the traffic build-up and chaos," he added.

"For example, my journey home would take me on to the Westlink. I used to be able to do it in five minutes. It's now taking 15 minutes.

"That isn't just me, and it is all to do with the bus lanes."

A breakdown of fines shows how some motorists are being caught dozens of times by the cameras.

One has been clocked 42 times in just 15 months. Another was caught on 37 occasions.

Five cars have been caught at least 20 times.

Twenty-two have been fined 10 or more times, and 82 have been clocked on at least five occasions.

The high number of fines has previously led to claims that the cameras are little more than a revenue-raising tool.

However, Green Party councillor Ross Brown says they have benefited the city.

"Evidence shows that the bus lanes are working by incentivising people to get the bus and thus reducing traffic levels in the city," he said.

"That is the only way forward for Belfast."

Mr Brown said it was important that enforcement of the bus lanes was reasonable.

"I wouldn't want to see the bus lanes lose support completely because of excessive enforcement, because I think in principle they are a good idea," he added.

Eight-second video of vehicles caught in act

There are over 50 kilometres of bus lanes in Northern Ireland.

The times and days of use vary, with some operational 24 hours a day.

Fixed enforcement cameras operate in Belfast at Donegall Square South, Donegall Square East, Great Victoria Street, East Bridge Street and College Square East.

There are also cameras at Castle Street, although these have been switched off until further notice due to works taking place in the area.

If a CCTV camera detects a vehicle illegally driving in a bus lane it will automatically record a minimum eight-second long video of the vehicle for evidence.

Police officers on the ground and traffic attendants also help with the enforcement process.

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