The £1.5m bus lane camera... city centre road spy racks up huge fines tally in four years
A Belfast camera has generated an incredible £1.5m in bus lane fines in almost four years, it has emerged.
Situated at Donegall Square East, it is responsible for the most penalties being issued to city centre commuters.
On an average day the bus lane will raise just under £1,115.
In total, 38 cameras across Belfast generated more than £4.2m between June 2015 and February of this year.
Officials had originally estimated they would raise around £500,000 a year.
The most prolific camera at Donegall Square East, which runs alongside City Hall, has generated a staggering £1,501,346.
In contrast, the lowest amount returned was a solitary fine of £45 on the Upper Malone Road.
According to figures released by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), the other city hotspots are:
- Great Victoria Street: £890,342.44.
- Castle Street: £521,787.67.
- College Square East: £487,815.60.
- Donegall Square South: £257,485.60.
- East Bridge Street: £240,974.53.
- Shore Road: £77,780.
- Antrim Road: £46,215.
- Ormeau Road: £43,320.00.
- Falls Road: £31,675.00.
Bus lanes were introduced in 2012 as part of the Belfast on the Move traffic plan.
There are now more than 60 bus lanes situated across 50km of the main routes in Belfast.
Since June 2015 motorists who drive in the lanes face a £90 fine, reduced to £45 if paid in two weeks.
It has led to fresh warnings that a heavy-handed approach is driving people out of Belfast.
Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts has hit out at what he claims is an over-zealous fining policy and the negative message it sends out to people who are travelling in their car into Belfast city centre.
He said: "While we do want to see more people using public transport, we've always said that instead of issuing people who stray into bus lanes with an immediate fine, they should firstly receive a warning letter not to do it again.
"That's a common sense approach to enforcement of bus lanes where we have a slightly less stringent attitude rather than slapping people with a fine straight away for what could be a genuine mistake."
Green Party councillor Malachai O Hara said that, while it's never good for people to pick up fines, bus lanes are there for an important reason.
"Belfast City centre has a serious congestion problem and the quality of our air is poor, in large part due to vehicle emissions," he added.
"People need to leave the car at home and switch to using buses or active travel options.
"There's 11 years to address the worst effects of climate breakdown and green transport solutions are critical to turning the tide.
"I do hope that fewer people pick up fines next year.
"Difficult and unpopular measures are sometimes needed to make the change we need to create healthier, happier communities across Belfast."
A spokesman for the Department for Infrastructure yesterday said: "The aim of the 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."