A COUNTY Durham bus lane which caught more than 8,000 motorists in September should be “double-checked” to ensure fines were issued correctly, a councillor has warned.
Last week, The Northern Echo revealed that Durham County Council had issued the equivalent of 263 fines per day to motorists using the Quarryheads Lane ‘bus gate’.
Data obtained by The Echo showed that a total of 8,158 fines had been issued since September 1, when cameras were switched on, and October 1.
The bus lane faced significant criticism with some suggesting motorists were being caught due to a ‘lack of signage’ and ‘advance warning’.
Defending criticism, the council said it had made residents and businesses aware and it had had introduced advanced warning signs.
But a county councillor has warned that the council should “double check” it has been doing everything right to ensure fines have been issued fairly and correctly.
Independent Councillor for Lumley, Alan Bell said he believed something was “not quite right” as thousands were being caught each week.
Cllr Bell said: “I have been with the council for thirteen years and have worked with the team and I genuinely believe they are doing what is best for the people they are representing.
“But I think there has got to be something not quite right to be catching that many people out per day.
Cllr Bell, who said he did not believe the council had deliberately sought to catch motorists out, said he had written to the council’s head of transport and contract services with his concerns.
He said: “We have got to do as a county council got to double check we are getting it right, especially as more students return to the city.
“I think the council could like at whether it could be improved – there is definitely room for improvement.”
A poll conducted by The Echo revealed that out of 1,136 people asked more than half – 54 per cent – said that they had been caught by the Quarryheads Lane bus lane.
In response Dave Lewin, traffic management section manager at Durham County Council, said: “We introduced the bus lane at Quarryheads Lane to help manage traffic while essential repairs are undertaken to New Elvet Bridge.
“These ongoing works require a full closure of the bridge, with Quarryheads Lane being the natural diversion route.
“However, the number of additional vehicles using that route would have resulted in unacceptable queues from Crossgate traffic lights.
“The restriction had to be introduced to reduce north bound ‘through’ traffic to ensure re-routed bus services can run to timetable, while also protecting the route for emergency services.
“The bus lane was publicised in advance, including the distribution of 2,750 information packs to nearby residents and businesses.
“We have introduced nine advanced warning signs to assist motorists at the location, including signs highlighting the new road layout. Warning letters were also sent for six weeks to allow people to get used to the system.”