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Motorists tired of being targeted

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 14/05/2015

One of the new cameras which will detect drivers using them illegally
One of the new cameras which will detect drivers using them illegally

Like the chaotic Belfast On The Move initiative, the installation of cameras to catch people using bus lanes in the city illegally probably seems like a good idea on the drawing board but it looks far different to frustrated motorists sitting behind the wheel of their cars.

Many will see it as yet another stealth tax, a way to generate money at a time of austerity. Even if the use of cameras to identify errant drivers can be justified - and that is a very debatable point - the penalty, a £90 fine, far outweighs the crime.

It has to be accepted that during rush hour in the morning and evening, when the bus lanes are supposed to be used solely by public transport, the traffic situation in Belfast is especially difficult with lengthy queues of vehicles going nowhere very slowly.

What also has to be remembered is that Belfast is the economic hub of Northern Ireland and the place where most people work. That inevitably means that large numbers of motorists come into the city every morning and leave every evening, never mind the heavy traffic flows at all other times of the day.

As this newspaper reported earlier this week, even Translink - which holds an enviable monopoly stranglehold on the provision of public transport - admits that there are areas where services do not meet the needs of commuters.

In fact, it spends an average of £476 a day ferrying its own employees to and from work because of the unavailability of its own bus and rail links at the times required.

People who face long commutes into Belfast from rural areas often have no alternative but to take their own cars. Quite simply, that is their only way of getting to work and keeping the wheels of the economy oiled. They will view the new initiative almost as a personal attack on them.

We also have to consider visitors who are unfamiliar with the bus lane restrictions. If they wander unwittingly into what they see as a vacant lane, is that sufficient reason to hit them with such a stiff penalty?

There is an undeniable car culture in Northern Ireland given its largely rural geography and motorists have shown that they will not be persuaded to leave their vehicles at home unless the public transport system can fully meet their needs. They remain to be convinced that is the case. What we need is greater investment in public transport, not another sneak attack on motorists.

Belfast Telegraph

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