£600k bill to drive through bus lane camera proposals

TRANSPORT bosses are set to spend more than £600,000 on new cameras to catch drivers illegally using the Capital's bus lanes.

• Five cameras will target ten bus lane-hogging hotspots across the city.

The city council said it hoped the technology would help free up the city's clogged roads, but motoring groups said the project was a "hideous" waste of money.

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The five new cameras, which will be rotated between ten locations in the Capital, will come on stream next year.

However, it is understood that thousands of fines will have to be issued to pay for the scheme.

• Should 600k be spent on catching bus lane cheats in the Capital? Vote here

Motoring groups and opposition councillors have attacked the plans, claiming the project is a waste of resources.

Councillor Angela Blacklock, Labour representative for Leith Walk, said: "I would rather see the money spent on vital services for the vulnerable and young people, which the new budget proposals hit the hardest.

"If buses are slower, it discourages people from taking public transport. But we would be better to spend the money on people, not cameras."

Her comments were echoed by Conservative councillor for Colinton/Fairmilehead, Jason Rust, who said: "Misuse of bus lanes is an annoyance for drivers and impedes the flow of traffic, but that does seem to be a large sum."

The cameras will be operated by the council's parking contractor, TSL Services Limited.

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Police will continue to be able to enforce bus lane fines of 30, rising to 60 if the fine is not paid within two weeks.

Funding for the project is to be paid for with a loan taken out against future revenues from the scheme, and will not affect the city's Capital Investment programme.

The initial capital cost is said to be around 240,000, with annual running costs of 120,000 for three years.

A report for the council anticipates a surplus once initial costs are paid, with any windfall going towards the council's local transport strategy.

Officials suggest that the cost of the contract could be repaid in five years. However, once the capital investment was paid for, the city would need to hand out 4,000 30 fines per year to break even.

Figures show that, from January 5 until December 17 this year, police handed out just 602 fines to drivers for bus lane infringements in the Capital.

Cllr Gordon Mackenzie, convener of the council's transport committee, said: "Having invested heavily in improving the quality and reliability of our award-winning bus service, it is frustrating that a minority of drivers are flouting the law and causing unnecessary delays, hence these measures."

Council figures suggest that during afternoon peak times, 80 per cent of buses suffer delays of between one and three minutes due to drivers blocking bus lanes.

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Similar schemes are being considered in Glasgow and Aberdeen, where enforcement of bus lanes with cameras is projected to raise roughly 90,000 a year in fines.

Hugh Bladon, of the Association of British Drivers, attacked the new scheme and said: "What a stupid and hideous way to waste half a million pounds. The mindset of Edinburgh council seems to be that they hate anyone who drives a car. They need to get a life."