Outlet bus lane rakes in £2.5m for council in just five years

A bus lane in Swindon has raked in more than £2.5m in fines for the borough council over the space of just five years.

And thousands of drivers are still falling foul of the restriction near the Designer Outlet in Rodbourne.

Helen Harrold turned left into the bus lane from Rodbourne Road when trying to park to visit the shopping centre in January. Her husband Robert decided to ask some questions using the Freedom of Information Act after he was sent the £60 fine.

He said: “The car is registered in my name. My wife has been driving for decades, has a clean licence and maximum no-claims. She has never had a penalty charge for driving in a bus lane before. She did not intentionally drive in the bus lane.”

Mr Harrold, 55, put in an FOI request to the council about how many fines it had issued from the restriction. While the answer was partial, the authority did tell Mr Harrold how much money it had made in fines over the last five years.

The worst year was 2017 when the council received £616,000. Last year the figure dropped to £339,000.

The number of fines issued was fully disclosed but the fines are £60. A discount of £30 is offered for payment within two weeks, and an extra penalty is added, bumping the total to £90, for late payment. It means, in 2017, the number of motorists fined could vary between 6,800 and a huge 20,400. In 2019 the number ranges between 3,700 and a possible 11,000.

Mrs Harrold, 52 said: “I was looking for somewhere to park, and there was the car park on my left, and a huge sign for the Outlet. It just seemed the obvious place to turn left into the car park. And there was a sign for buses only but no ‘no entry’ sign. I think that would have helped. I wouldn’t have driven in a bus lane if I had realised.

“It’s obvious if so many people are still getting caught out that it’s not that obvious to people.”

Mr Harrold, who lives in Trowbridge, added: “If the council’s aim is really to stop people driving into the bus lanes on Penzance Drive around the Outlet, then it’s clearly not working.

“Perhaps they need better signs? There’s a bus lane in the middle of Trowbridge which has large no entry signs at either end, and that’s clear and obvious

.

“If the council is making so much money from the fines, then perhaps it doesn’t have an incentive to make changes to help people avoid driving in the bus lane.

“It’s certainly made us think twice before coming to shop in Swindon, at the Outlet. A £30 or £60 fine means it’s not a bargain shopping experience.

“You would have thought the council would want people to be coming to the town to shop, but I suppose it’s making a lot of money from the fines.”

A council spokesman said: “The Penzance Drive bus gate is there to help improve bus journey times to and from West Swindon, it is not there to trap motorists. Any money received through the bus gate fines is spent on highways and transport-related projects.

“It is true that thousands of motorists are caught illegally driving into the junction each year, but that does not mean there is anything wrong with the signage or the bus gate itself. Millions of people visit the Designer Outlet each year and the vast majority have no problem.

“There are more than a dozen signs in place on the approaches to the bus gate as well as highly visible road markings in the area which should act as a further deterrent to motorists. All the warning signs exceed the appropriate regulations. Any drivers who wish to challenge why they were ticketed can use the independent appeals process.”

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