Belfast Telegraph

Time to axe 24-hour bus lane fine system

Editor's Viewpoint

In today's newspaper we reveal the absurd situation whereby more than 2,000 people have been fined for driving in bus lanes during the night when buses aren't even running.

The statistics show that 2,205 fines were issued on bus lanes at East Bridge Street and Castle Street between midnight and 6am.

Many drivers who have been fined were unaware that cameras were operating 24-hours-a-day.

One unfortunate motorist had been ticketed twice within 30 minutes outside Belfast Central Station.

It is no wonder that South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford said that he was astounded by the figures.

Many people will agree with his view that the cameras on bus lanes are a "money-spinner" rather than making it easier for drivers to move around Belfast.

Everyone knows, to his or her cost, that Belfast city centre has a major congestion problem.

Most will question whether or not the maintenance of cameras on bus lanes for 24 hours is fair or justified.

Why should a camera on a bus lane be operating when buses are not running?

Of course everyone wants a city that is "on the move" and efforts to decrease congestion are welcome. Nevertheless, the bus lanes remain highly contentious, and not least because of the high fines.

The full fine of £90, and even half of that if paid within two weeks, have created anger even from the very start.

Belfast remains Northern Ireland's economic hub where many people work, and a momentary lapse in concentration can create hefty fines for people who are all too aware that the city is already an expensive commute in terms of petrol and parking.

Belfast is also trying to attract more visitors, and these are exactly the people who are unfamiliar with the city's complex road network, and therefore could face a heavy fine because of a simple mistake.

For quite some time, critics of the bus lane system have complained bitterly, and with justification, that this is just another money-spinner and a wealth tax.

There is no doubt that fining people when the bus lanes are not operational will reinforce that view and make the city less attractive for residents, commuters and visitors alike.

Given the nonsense of issuing such fines, it is encouraging, at least, to see that the system is being reviewed, and not a moment too soon.

Belfast Telegraph

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