CALLS have been made for bus gate restrictions on Oxford’s High Street to be lifted after it emerged nearly £4m of fines have been raked in.

Since 2007, motorists – particularly those driving through the historic city street – have been caught out by bus gate cameras, and have been fined by Oxfordshire County Council as a result.

On average more than 80 fines have been dished out by the authority every day over the past five years.

The enforcement closes the road to ordinary traffic between 7.30am and 6.30pm, with bus gates in place at Castle Street, Magdalen Street and George Street.

And in the past five years, figures released by the county council under the Freedom of Information Act show it has collected £3.9m in fines for almost 150,000 offences.

The annual figure has fallen in the last two years to £722,000 for 2014-15 after peaking at £954,000 in 2012-13.

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But it has prompted claims that the measure is still failing to deter thousands of motorists annually.

Transport consultant Mark McArthur-Christie said the scheme should be put under review.

He said: “There is the argument made that if motorists do not breach the rules, they won’t get fined.

“But when you get to the point that nearly £4m has been generated in fines, it starts to get unreasonable because it is clearly not changing people’s behaviour – it is just causing people grief.

“When you have this level of non-compliance, you need to review the measure instead of just hitting people with a stick.”

Graham Jones of traders’ group ROX, who has called for years for the restrictions to be removed, said he was surprised that so many drivers were still being fined.

He added: “I still think there is an argument for lifting the restrictions in the High Street between 10am and 3pm.

“It would also be interesting to find out how many of the drivers were tourists or people from outside Oxford who are not aware of the restrictions.”

And the RAC has warned that bus gate systems are unfair on motorists who get caught out.

Simon Williams of the RAC said: “The present system is broken.

“Motorists don’t set out to deliberately flout the law when it comes to bus lanes – the majority accept that they are there to keep traffic flowing efficiently.

“It’s very often poor signage or road design that leads motorists to accidentally commit the offence of driving in a bus lane.

“We urge local authorities to review their bus lanes, particularly those that have raised the most revenue in fines, to check that signage is as clear as it can be and that they are open only at times when traffic volumes demand it.

“We need to put to an end, once and for all, motorists being caught out by simply missing a single traffic sign when there is so much else to consider when at the wheel.”

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.

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 a High Court appeal by the local authority was upheld.

It has previously said bus gate fines were spent on transport schemes, including improvements at Thornhill park-and-ride.

County council spokeswoman Emily Reed said there were no plans to change the current scheme.

She added: “Bus lane camera enforcement was introduced to Oxford city centre to ease traffic congestion and reduce the journey times for buses.

“That logic applies as much now as when they were introduced.”

A spokesman for Oxford Bus Company, Phil Ashworth, said: “Buses are at the heart of Oxford’s economic success, the vast majority of people in the city centre at any time got there by bus. Oxford’s ancient road layout can’t cope with all the cars that would try to use the city’s roads without these measures. . We saw what happened when the bus gates were lifted during the floods last year. There was gridlock throughout the city centre.”