Mobile bus lane cameras

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MOTORISTS parking or driving in bus lanes could find themselves caught by new mobile cameras - in a move Sheffield Council claims could raise up to £264,000 a year in fines.

The Star can reveal plans are being drawn up to deploy mobile cameras and to free up more foot patrols to catch motorists flouting the restrictions.

The cameras will cost £124,000 to introduce but it is estimated each would catch up to 20 offenders a day - resulting in £160,000 income from fines for the council

And because that would free up more wardens to patrol the streets, more motorists would be caught, generating a further £24,000 in fines.

A report to the council’s cabinet highways committee also suggests installing a portable camera for bus gates, which would generate around £80,000 in fines from drivers ignoring restrictions, bringing the total potential income to £264,000 a year.

The highways committee is being asked to approve the proposals to reduce traffic congestion from illegal parking, and to make public transport speedier with proper operation of bus lanes and gates.

Kevan Butt, council parking services manager, said: “Enforcement of parking contraventions using mobile cameras will enhance the effectiveness of enforcement in specific areas. More effective enforcement will improve safety around schools, make bus stops more accessible and reduce traffic congestion.

“Re-locatable enforcement cameras at existing bus and tram gates and bus lanes will enable more sites to be enforced at lower cost. More effective enforcement will contribute to improving public transport reliability.”

Mr Butt said wardens on foot patrol find it difficult to tackle motorists flouting waiting restrictions around schools and bus stops, no waiting and loading restrictions on main routes, and unauthorised ranking of taxis.

He said it will cost £124,000 to introduce mobile parking enforcement, because of changes to IT systems, road markings, erecting warning signs and fitting the CCTV to vehicles.

Mr Butt said vehicles fitted with CCTV would need only one warden rather than the two at present, meaning extra wardens to go on foot patrol.

He said they could raise an extra £24,000 in fines from catching at least three more offenders each day.

The cost of the new equipment and signs to cover parking restrictions would be borrowed and repaid over two years - leaving a ‘net income of £110,300 to the parking services budget’ over the next two years.

Meanwhile, Mr Butt said the cost of buying a portable camera to use at bus gates would be £30,000, plus additional costs to ensure suitable markings and signs present at each site, and a £2,500 bill every time the camera was moved.

But he said about 15 fines a day could be issued, raising about £80,000 a year - with proceeds paying for expansion of enforcement to more locations.

Coupled with the extra cash from parking fines, the total income would be £264,000, against initial set-up costs of £154,000 for both types of enforcement.

However, Mr Butt predicted the total raised could fall in future years as motorists become more aware of the cameras and obey the rules.

Last September, figures revealed by The Star showed the council made more than £1 million over 19 months in fines from bus gate and bus lane enforcement at just six locations.

The proposals were welcomed by Sheffield’s biggest bus company, First.

A spokesman said: “We are fully supportive of the initiative, which we hope will improve reliability of services.”

However, there was divided opinion among members of the city’s Motorists’ Forum.

Mac Millard, a retired postman from Longley, said: “More people would respect restrictions in the first place if they were in fair places. At present, there are bus gates such as the one in Bridge Street, where no services run.”

But Rob Prior, a company director from Broomhill, said: “I don’t have a problem with the proposals. Whether the locations are correct is a different debate but I have no argument against enforcement.”

Sheffield Council’s cabinet highways committee is to consider the proposals for mobile parking and bus lane enforcement at a meeting on Thursday, January 12.

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SHEFFIELD Council’s plans to bring in mobile cameras to enforce parking restrictions and bus lanes were met with a mixed reaction today.

Bus and tram passenger Robert Greaves, who is registered disabled and lives in Walkley, said: “The plans don’t go far enough.

“There should be even more enforcement with police and ambassadors given the power to hand out fines as well as council wardens but some of the money should be spent improving public transport, such as helping fund a cheap ticket that people can use on all buses and trams.”

Retired plumber John Oldfield, of Sothall, said: “Anything like this always involves money.

“Because the Government does not give them enough, the council is finding it from ordinary people. I agree with fining drivers in bus lanes if they get in the way of a bus, but if they are empty why shouldn’t ordinary vehicles be able to use them to cut congestion?”

Alan Burdett, a gas engineer from Gleadless, said: “If the proposals are self-financing, that’s fine. The rules are there and should be enforced. I’d also like to see more of a crackdown on abuse of blue disabled badges.”

His wife Pat, who is retired, said: “I suppose it is a bit of a money-making scheme, but as long as there are signs, so motorists have warning, I think the proposals are fair.”