NEARLY £500,000 of fines imposed on motorists caught driving through bus gate restrictions in Oxford have been cancelled by county council bosses.

Camera enforcement has been in place in High Street since 2007 and the street is closed to ordinary traffic between 7.30am and 6.30pm.

Bus gates also operate in Castle Street, Magdalen Street and George Street.

Over the past three years, fines totalling more than £2,595,000 have been issued for the four areas, but about £475,000 of them were either cancelled or refunded by the council. Transport bosses have said it would cost more to chase some of those ticketed.

The cancellations were prompted by several reasons given by drivers using High Street instead of another route, according to information released following a Freedom of Information request.

One of the major categories for cancellations was drivers from abroad.

In 2011/12 there were 974 cancellations for drivers from overseas, in 2012/13 there were 1,187, and in 2013/14 the total was 903.

Other reasons included foreign vehicles, diplomatic vehicles, disabled drivers, Royal Mail vehicles and a fire engine.

There were 131 drivers ticketed in 2013/14 whose tickets were cancelled after they informed the council they drove through High Street as a result of flooding.

During heavy flooding at the beginning of this year, Abingdon and Botley roads were both shut, prompting some drivers to use the High Street instead.

Paul Alex, who works for 001 Taxis, based in St Aldate’s, said: “Taxis are allowed to go through the High Street at all times.

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“I think it’s only fair that fines for drivers are cancelled during times of flooding.”

Cancellations for tickets for police vehicles totalled 194 in 2011/12, 169 in 2012/13 and 67 in 2013/14.

County councillor David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for transport, said the county council does not chase up fines accumulated by foreign vehicles.

He said: “It is just not economic for us to pursue fines for foreign vehicles.”

There were 4,282 cancellations in 2011/12, totalling £145,907; 5,641 in 2012/13, totalling £188,103; and 4,329 in 2013/14, totalling £136,932.

In 2011/12 there were 65 refunds, totalling £2,032; in 2012/13 a total of 80 refunds worth £2,485; and in 2013/14, 50 refunds totalling £1,580.

The main reason for a refund is when a driver pays the statutory charge of £60 within the discount period of 14 days and the difference of £30 is then refunded.