Bus lane fines waived after Edinburgh council admits errors

THOUSANDS of fines meted out to motorists for driving in bus lanes in Edinburgh will have to be waived after the city council bungled the launch of a new crackdown, The Scotsman can reveal.

Drivers have been issued with fines for turning across bus lanes into side streets and have also been hit with multiple tickets after being caught driving along some of the city’s Greenways.

However most of these will now have to be scrapped after the council admitted it had failed to provide enough warning on affected routes and was not ticketing people quickly enough.

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Two of the five camera sites used to date, on Willowbrae Road, are also to be scrapped completely after the council admitted it was a mistake for them to be site there. Many residents were being fined for driving to and from their homes.

Better signage is to be introduced at the remaining three sites, two on Calder Road, and one on London Road, in a bid to reduce the number of fines being issued.

And the introduction of another five sites has been put on hold until what are described as “teething problems” are resolved.

However last night the council insisted it would not be completely scrapping the system, which sees motorists hit with a £60 fine, only half of which is payable if the driver agrees to stump up within a fortnight.

Details of how affected motorists can have fines refunded or the possible grounds for appeal are expected to be outlined by the council today or tomorrow.

Transport spokeswoman Lesley Hinds said: “There is no question of us dropping the whole scheme. People have actually been writing to us asking us not to do that and we want to keep bus lanes clear for buses.

“However I don’t think this has been introduced well at all and we are taking measures to address that this week.

“One of the first is to remove the two cameras on Willowbrae Road as it is obvious that the system is not working properly there and they should not have been installed there.”

The new Labour-SNP administration which took charge of the city earlier this month inherited the scheme from the previous Lib Dem-SNP coalition, which had unveiled the 10 initial routes for the bus lane cameras in February. Other routes put on hold at the moment are Leith Street, North Bridge and Old Dalkeith Road. They are now unlikely to go live until their locations have been fully reviewed and much larger signs are in place.

It is thought well over 10,000 fines have been issued in the four weeks since the council - which was given the power by the Scottish Government to take over responsibility for enforcing bus lanes from the police - started its clampdown.

Only 4000 fines a year had been predicted from the scheme which is said to cost the council £120,000 to administer.

One council source said: “There are numerous problems to try to resolve, but the sheer volume of motorists using these lanes is the main one.

“It’s been taking far too long for people to receive notice of their fine, and this has exacerbated things.

“The fact remains that these bus lanes need to be introduced to help cut traffic congestion and pollution.

“Clearly, more work needs to be done to publicise the way these are being enforced now, but there is no question of the council abandoning the system entirely.”

Some residents in the Willowbrae fear they may have been fined every day since the clampdown started for more than a fortnight before they realised what was happening.

Private hire cab drivers are thought to have been the worst affected after notching up multiple fines as they are officially barred from using bus lanes, even although black “hackney” cab drivers are not.

The Licensed Private Hire Car Association has claimed its drivers are being “discriminated against.”