Bus gate fines hit £782, 566 in a year

Graham Jones at the High Street bus gate in Oxford

Graham Jones at the High Street bus gate in Oxford

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

DRIVERS flouting bus gate restrictions in Oxford city centre have been hit by fines approaching £1m a year over the past three years, new figures have revealed.

Motorists, particularly those driving through High Street, have been caught out by bus gate cameras, and have been fined by Oxfordshire County Council as a result.

The enforcement launched in 2007 means High Street is closed to ordinary traffic between 7.30am-6.30pm. Bus gates also operate in Castle Street, Magdalen Street and George Street.

Business spokesman Graham Jones yesterday called for the High Street restriction to be reviewed after the council released the figures following a Freedom of Information request from the Oxford Mail.

The figures revealed that in 2011/2012 a total of 31,981 drivers were caught in the four locations, leading to fines of £858,948.96.

The fines total for 2012/2013 rose to £953,582.77 and fell in 2013/2014 to £782,566.33.

Over the three years, more than £470,000 of these fines – totalling more than £2,595,000 – has been either cancelled or refunded by the county council.

Graham Jones, a spokesman for Oxford High Street Association, which represents about 35 businesses, including hotels, restaurants and colleges, said he was surprised by the large number of drivers fined. And he called for the county council to consider lifting the restriction between 9.30am and 3.30pm, while major roadworks take place in other parts of the city.

Mr Jones said: “I’m always surprised by the scale of the fines but at least drivers appear to be getting wise to it.

“I have spoken to some businesses who choose to pay the fine rather than face an extra 30-minute journey to get to where they want to go.

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“Some visitors to the city get caught out and that can put them off coming to Oxford again.

“With so many roadworks taking place, including those at Frideswide Square and Kennington roundabout, I think the High Street restrictions should be reviewed. If the High Street was open in the middle of the day it could free up congestion in other parts of the city.

“Some people, however, would be totally opposed to this and we have to be careful not to risk the reductions we have seen in pollution levels.

Buses are cleaner than they used to be and a joint ticketing arrangement has reduced the number of buses.”

Deputy leader of the county council Rodney Rose said he would not be in favour of reopening High Street in the middle of the day to help tackle congestion.

He said: “The bus gates were put in to speed up the running of the buses.

“We are asking people to use alternative forms of transport instead of the car.

“I have been using the train to get from Oxford to Charlbury – putting my money where my mouth is.”

The largest number of fines issued each year were in High Street – 21,425 in 2011/2012, 25,652 in 2012/2013 and 22,647 in 2013/2014.

The county council is only responsible for enforcing bus lane legislation in High Street, Castle Street, George Street and Magdalen Street, while Thames Valley Police is responsible for other bus gates and bus lanes.

Drivers who receive a fine are told to pay £60, although the amount is reduced to £30 if they pay within 14 days.

County council spokesman Paul Smith said the bus gate fines were spent on transport schemes including improvements at Thornhill park-and-ride.

He added: “The bus gates in Oxford city centre were introduced to ease traffic congestion and reduce journey times for buses.

“They are a long-standing arrangement and well established.

“If people obeyed them, and did not drive through them, the council would receive no money in fines.

“Our aim is not to make money – our aim is to manage traffic in the city centre.”

In 2009, the Traffic Penalty Tribunal ruled the council should not be penalising drivers for entering a bus lane because the area was not signposted as such, but the council’s High Court appeal was upheld.

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Comments (15)

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9:09am Wed 3 Sep 14

Deadwoodward says...

Much bigger warning signs are needed, or live warning signs.
People stray into them, not noticing the signage, because they are driving in a strange city.
Much bigger warning signs are needed, or live warning signs. People stray into them, not noticing the signage, because they are driving in a strange city. Deadwoodward
  • Score: 5

9:18am Wed 3 Sep 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

Are these the totals of fines issued, if so, how much was actually collected?

I often see cars with overseas plates driving through the gates on The High and wonder if the fines are collected. Perhaps if signage indicated the size of the fine it would focus the mind of the driver too.
Are these the totals of fines issued, if so, how much was actually collected? I often see cars with overseas plates driving through the gates on The High and wonder if the fines are collected. Perhaps if signage indicated the size of the fine it would focus the mind of the driver too. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 8

9:23am Wed 3 Sep 14

Heinz Kiosk says...

Nice little earner bruv. Still, we've got to keep hundreds of Council Fat Cats in highly paid non jobs and it gets pricey innit.
Nice little earner bruv. Still, we've got to keep hundreds of Council Fat Cats in highly paid non jobs and it gets pricey innit. Heinz Kiosk
  • Score: 0

10:56am Wed 3 Sep 14

jkg says...

I do have sympathy for visiting drivers/tourists who may inadvertently cross the restrictions; what should they do – stop dead and perform a U-turn? This would defeat the object of speed up the running of buses.

It would be good to know how many of the fines were paid at the discounted rate of £30 within 14 days – don’t forget you can always appeal and the council normally extend the 14 day period from the date of its rejection. Obviously compelling reasons must be given in writing, so only about 18 % of appeals were allowed.

“The figures revealed that in 2011/2012 a total of 31,981 drivers were caught in the four locations, leading to fines of £858,948.96.” how do they work that one out? It averages £26.86 per fine?

Responding to Heinz Kiosk; I would say that a FOI will show that the bus gate fines are spent on transport schemes including improvements at Thornhill park-and-ride, not to pay the Fat Cats. Like all things, you get what you pay for and Council employees, even senior managers, are not the most highly paid for what they have to do.
I do have sympathy for visiting drivers/tourists who may inadvertently cross the restrictions; what should they do – stop dead and perform a U-turn? This would defeat the object of speed up the running of buses. It would be good to know how many of the fines were paid at the discounted rate of £30 within 14 days – don’t forget you can always appeal and the council [may] normally extend the 14 day period from the date of its rejection. Obviously compelling reasons must be given in writing, so only about 18 % of appeals were allowed. “The figures revealed that in 2011/2012 a total of 31,981 drivers were caught in the four locations, leading to fines of £858,948.96.” how do they work that one out? It averages £26.86 per fine? Responding to Heinz Kiosk; I would say that a FOI will show that the bus gate fines are spent on transport schemes including improvements at Thornhill park-and-ride, not to pay the Fat Cats. Like all things, you get what you pay for and Council employees, even senior managers, are not the most highly paid for what they have to do. jkg
  • Score: -5

12:09pm Wed 3 Sep 14

King Joke says...

Do the crime, pay the fine.

There are plenty of signs at the gate and well in advance, including, to answer your question JKG, one requiring non-compliant vehicles to perform a U-turn. This will slow buses down much less than the mile-long queue of stationary traffic which is what you had before the bus gate went in.
Do the crime, pay the fine. There are plenty of signs at the gate and well in advance, including, to answer your question JKG, one requiring non-compliant vehicles to perform a U-turn. This will slow buses down much less than the mile-long queue of stationary traffic which is what you had before the bus gate went in. King Joke
  • Score: 7

12:13pm Wed 3 Sep 14

Heinz Kiosk says...

"Council employees, even senior managers, are not the most highly paid for what they have to do"
Or indeed, as Rotherham tends to demonstrate, what many of them never ever do-for 130 grand a year. Still a nice little earner methinks.
"Council employees, even senior managers, are not the most highly paid for what they have to do" Or indeed, as Rotherham tends to demonstrate, what many of them never ever do-for 130 grand a year. Still a nice little earner methinks. Heinz Kiosk
  • Score: -6

1:11pm Wed 3 Sep 14

Cityview says...

I am sure that a return to the old style "No entry except...." signs would halve these fines. If you are in a strange city it is very easy to miss these style of signs amongst all the other city centre signage particularly if you are in a flow of traffic. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen tourists happily following the buses through the restrictions at the back of the Westgate. This would not happen if we had the old style red and white No Entry Signs.
I am sure that a return to the old style "No entry except...." signs would halve these fines. If you are in a strange city it is very easy to miss these style of signs amongst all the other city centre signage particularly if you are in a flow of traffic. I have lost count of the number of times I have seen tourists happily following the buses through the restrictions at the back of the Westgate. This would not happen if we had the old style red and white No Entry Signs. Cityview
  • Score: 4

1:17pm Wed 3 Sep 14

Heinz Kiosk says...

The bloke in the picture is a dead ringer for Lionel Jeffries
The bloke in the picture is a dead ringer for Lionel Jeffries Heinz Kiosk
  • Score: -1

2:03pm Wed 3 Sep 14

EMBOX2 says...

The absolute fact of the matter is that this IS for financial gain.

I am all for a bus gate and fining drivers, however, it is very simple to put up a screen, and display people's number plates and in big flashing lights (and multiple languages) say NO ENTRY - TURN AROUND. If people still continue, then fine them.

Hell, you can even put a bollard or barrier system in and give each bus a swipe card or similar, thus physically preventing cars from entering.

But no, OCC went down the route of fining drivers because they rely upon motorists to fund a massive portion of council expenditure.
The absolute fact of the matter is that this IS for financial gain. I am all for a bus gate and fining drivers, however, it is very simple to put up a screen, and display people's number plates and in big flashing lights (and multiple languages) say NO ENTRY - TURN AROUND. If people still continue, then fine them. Hell, you can even put a bollard or barrier system in and give each bus a swipe card or similar, thus physically preventing cars from entering. But no, OCC went down the route of fining drivers because they rely upon motorists to fund a massive portion of council expenditure. EMBOX2
  • Score: 1

2:28pm Wed 3 Sep 14

gas465 says...

Several signs in place. Blatantly obvious to a person with half decent eye sight. End the culture of people blindly following their useless sat nav systems and problem solved....
Several signs in place. Blatantly obvious to a person with half decent eye sight. End the culture of people blindly following their useless sat nav systems and problem solved.... gas465
  • Score: 6

10:53pm Wed 3 Sep 14

Myron Blatz says...

Forget the City centre - what we need are RED BUS LANES across urban and suburban Oxford, and simply ban parking except in residential parking schemes and short-stay parking for shops. Also ban two bus operators running almost identical routes like to Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys, which don't help congestion - and do we really need buses every four minutes to Blackbird Leys, and every 10 minutes to London from and to central Oxford?
Forget the City centre - what we need are RED BUS LANES across urban and suburban Oxford, and simply ban parking except in residential parking schemes and short-stay parking for shops. Also ban two bus operators running almost identical routes like to Rose Hill and Blackbird Leys, which don't help congestion - and do we really need buses every four minutes to Blackbird Leys, and every 10 minutes to London from and to central Oxford? Myron Blatz
  • Score: -2

11:14pm Wed 3 Sep 14

14jayeff says...

Wish they were as quick and efficient at filling all those potholes as they are at collecting easy money off motorists
Wish they were as quick and efficient at filling all those potholes as they are at collecting easy money off motorists 14jayeff
  • Score: 0

7:40am Thu 4 Sep 14

King Joke says...

It's only easy if you don't stick to very simple and clearly visible rules. I haven't got a shred of sympathy.
It's only easy if you don't stick to very simple and clearly visible rules. I haven't got a shred of sympathy. King Joke
  • Score: 1

12:02pm Thu 4 Sep 14

davyboy says...

Deadwoodward wrote:
Much bigger warning signs are needed, or live warning signs.
People stray into them, not noticing the signage, because they are driving in a strange city.
Absolute rubbish! The signage is very clear indeed. If you can't see the signs, then you are not paying attention, so the offence of driving with out due care comes into play. The high St is signed AT LEAST 300 metres in each direction, as are all the others!
[quote][p][bold]Deadwoodward[/bold] wrote: Much bigger warning signs are needed, or live warning signs. People stray into them, not noticing the signage, because they are driving in a strange city.[/p][/quote]Absolute rubbish! The signage is very clear indeed. If you can't see the signs, then you are not paying attention, so the offence of driving with out due care comes into play. The high St is signed AT LEAST 300 metres in each direction, as are all the others! davyboy
  • Score: 1

5:00pm Thu 4 Sep 14

goridebus says...

EXBOX - the council can only put up signs which are included in the DfT's prescribed list. Otherwise, they are illegal and drivers get off without paying. Big flashing signs of the ilk you describe are not prescribed and therefore not legal. If you think the signage is not clear enough, it may well be a government issue and not a council one.
EXBOX - the council can only put up signs which are included in the DfT's prescribed list. Otherwise, they are illegal and drivers get off without paying. Big flashing signs of the ilk you describe are not prescribed and therefore not legal. If you think the signage is not clear enough, it may well be a government issue and not a council one. goridebus
  • Score: 0

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