Trapped drivers £57,000 payback

Laurence Nair-Price, who is awaiting refund after wrongly being fined for entering a bus gate in London Road.
Laurence Nair-Price, who is awaiting refund after wrongly being fined for entering a bus gate in London Road.
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Almost 1,000 Sheffield motorists are to be refunded nearly £57,000 in fines – after being ‘trapped’ on camera driving through a bus gate which signs said was open.

A diversion directing drivers to pass legally through a suspended bus gate in London Road were intended to be displayed in the evenings only, when roadworks were underway.

But the signs were left up mistakenly around the clock for a month, near the junction of the A61 and Queens Road – and 946 penalties were then issued to motorists who drove through.

Now, in a victory for readers, Sheffield Council today agreed to cancel all the fines, and refund every penalty, after The Star pointed out the error.

But drivers accused the council of ‘entrapment’.

Laurence Nair, aged 28, from Albert Road, Heeley, was hit with four fines in two weeks, totalling £240, after he drove through the diversion several times.

He complained to the council in an email: “I am shocked by the complete lack of intelligence and competence clearly present at the council.

“You have caused me distress by issuing me a bus lane notice when there was clearly a diversion and a sign that said ‘bus lane camera not in use’.

“You have been completely misleading people, allowing them to go down a different route and then fining them. It is entrapment.”

The council admitted its mistake after The Star got in touch, and has now cancelled every fine given out on the road between July 8 and August 7.

It will also write to drivers who have already paid, to offer them a refund.

Council cabinet member Coun Leigh Bramall said: “On this occasion we must hold our hands up and apologise to the drivers, whose penalty charges will be cancelled.

“An overnight diversion had been in place because of roadworks, and the bus gate was suspended during the times the diversion was scheduled to be in place.

“Unfortunately, signs diverting motorists through the bus gate during the night were incorrectly left in place during the day, when the bus gate camera was operating as normal.

“This meant motorists were fined while taking what they thought was a legitimate, signed diversion.

“All those drivers that get in touch with us regarding fixed penalties erroneously issued due to this mistake will be cancelled.”

Mr Nair said he was staggered as many as 946 fines had been issued.

“I never thought it would be that many – that’s just massive.

“Each ticket must cost about £2 to £3 in administration costs to send out, so that too has to be thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money which has been wasted that the council should be getting back off the roadworks contractors.

“I’m really happy the fines are being cancelled. I knew I wasn’t wrong in the first place.

“The council must have seen a spike of people being fined for driving through the bus gate – but it still didn’t do anything about it until The Star raised the issue.”