QUEUE-JUMPING drivers who cheat the system by using a park-and-ride lane to beat traffic could soon be getting a hefty fine.

Oxfordshire County Council has revealed plans to turn the lane leading to Seacourt Park-and-Ride on Botley Road into a bus lane watched by number plate-spotting cameras.

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It is just one of multiple new locations in the city the council now plans to create camera-monitored bus lanes.

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For years commuters have been beating Botley Road morning queues by driving from the Botley Interchange in the left lane and pretending to use the park-and-ride, but then coming straight back out again.

Some drivers don't even bother to pretend and just push into the traffic queue.

Thames Valley Police has carried out a number of spot checks over the years to catch drivers breaking the rules, but there has never been permanent camera enforcement.

Now the council has revealed plans to extend the Botley Road bus lane across the entrance to the park-and-ride so it runs continuously from West Way to just past Waitrose.

Oxford Mail:

The authority also plans to put up new number plate-identifying cameras to catch queue jumpers in the act, and land them with a fine – expected to be £60.

Labour city and and county councillor for West Oxford Susanna Pressel said she was 'delighted' with the news.

She went on: "The county council will – at last – be able to stop drivers from sneakily pretending that they are going to Seacourt park-and-ride, when they are not.

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"I have had a lot of complaints from people in my division who are fed up with watching these cheats, who have been using the lane for the park-and-ride in order to get ahead of the law-abiding drivers waiting to move along Botley Road towards the city centre.

"As soon as the new cameras are in place, these cheats will be fined.

"This will help the buses to be faster and therefore more attractive, which is also great."

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As well as Botley Road, the council is planning to put new the new Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras at four existing bus lanes in the city:

•High Street

•George Street

•Castle Street

•Magdalen Street

On top of that, it is now consulting on plans to create three new ANPR bus lane zones:

•Folly Bridge

•Abingdon Road

•Barton Park

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At the moment, enforcement is carried out using cameras which require staff to review footage and 'capture' vehicle numbers in order to issue penalty charge notices.

Under the new system, the ANPR technology will make the whole process automatic.

No date has yet been given for the installation of the new cameras.

Oxford Mail:

Paul Fermer, the county council's assistant director of highways and transport operations, said: “Buses are a major part of Oxford’s sustainable transport system and it is important that key areas are kept free of traffic.

“New cameras will improve our ability to carry out enforcement as a last resort if drivers do not heed the signs that are up.

“Last year more than 27,500 people were caught driving through the bus gates in Oxford."

He added that any money made from fines, once costs have been covered, is ring-fenced for transport projects in the city.

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The existing camera-enforced bus gate in High Street allows access to buses, taxis and emergency vehicles only between 7.30am and 6.30pm and in 2017/2018 over 27,200 penalty charges were handed out to motorists who drove though the restrictions.

This resulted in £288,000 in fines for the county council.

Oxford Mail:

The latest bus lane plans revealed today come after the county council last month raised the possibility of five other new camera-monitored 'bus gates' across the city as part of Connecting Oxford, a raft of congestion-busting measures being considered by the city and county council.

Those new bus gates could be installed in Worcester Street, Oxpens Road/Thames Street, Marston Ferry Road, Hollow Way and South Parks Road/St Cross Road – but it is not yet clear if they would all be introduced at once or individually over a period of time.

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Commenting on the issue last month, Oxford Bus Company managing director Phil Southall said: "Reliable and flexible buses are a crucial part of the jigsaw to cutting down the number of vehicles on the roads.

Oxford Mail:

"There needs to be a major and sustained commitment to improve journey times on the bus network to ensure that they are predictable if we are to address the impacts of congestion on customers as soon as possible. This includes the important park-and-ride services."

More details of these proposals are available online at consultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk

This consultation on ANPR cameras lists Barton Fields, Botley Road, Castle Street and St Aldate's.