£15K BUS LANE FINES AF­TER M-WAY SMASH

Western Daily Press - - Front Page - DANIEL MUMBY news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

ACOUNCIL made £16,000 in fines from driv­ers who di­verted through a bus lane when a fa­tal mo­tor­way crash caused 11-mile tail­backs.

Two peo­ple died and four oth­ers were in­jured in a multi-ve­hi­cle col­li­sion which closed the south­bound car­riage­way of the M5 in Som­er­set for 11 hours.

Hun­dreds of mo­torists di­verted onto the A38 through Taun­ton to avoid the grid­lock.

A to­tal of 581 driv­ers went along the 50m-long bus lane and were is­sued with £60 fines, which were re­duced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Som­er­set County Coun­cil took £15,960 from the bus gate on the day of the ac­ci­dent in Septem­ber, a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest has re­vealed.

Only buses, emer­gency ve­hi­cles and bi­cy­cles are al­lowed to pass along the sec­tion of road, which has no bar­ri­ers but is mon­i­tored by cam­eras that record num­ber plates.

The lane is de­signed to pre­vent cars from driv­ing through the Monk­ton Heath­field res­i­den­tial area and in­stead use the A38 re­lief road, which was grid­locked on the day.

As of this week, 87 per cent of driv­ers who re­ceived a penalty charge no­tice on the day of the crash have paid up – rais­ing the coun­cil a to­tal of £15,960. But if every driver pays up the same amount and every PCN is set­tled, the coun­cil will earn a to­tal of £18,344 from the day’s fines.

The car­riage­way was shut in both direc­tions be­tween junc­tion 24 for Bridg­wa­ter and junc­tion 25 for Taun­ton af­ter a crash, which in­volved an HGV and sev­eral cars. A man and woman were pro­nounced dead at the scene on Septem­ber 13.

Traf­fic was not di­verted through the bus gate as part of the for­mal di­ver­sion fol­low­ing the col­li­sion.

Any in­come gen­er­ated from bus gate fines, or other forms of traf­fic en­force­ment, must by law be rein­vested in en­force­ment or traf­fic man­age­ment within Som­er­set.

Som­er­set County Coun­cil has dis­missed sug­ges­tions that ex­tra signs are needed to pre­vent more peo­ple from be­ing fined in the fu­ture.

A spokesman said: “On the day of the M5 clo­sure there was an in­crease in unau­tho­rised ve­hi­cles us­ing the Bath­pool bus gate, but for con­text there were nearly 20,000 ve­hi­cles us­ing the A38 that day and only 581 ve­hi­cles went through the bus gate.

“We would re­mind driv­ers to be­ware of re­ly­ing on sat­nav sys­tems and al­ways pay at­ten­tion to signs and road mark­ings. Any­one who is un­happy about re­ceiv­ing a fine is able to ap­peal and any mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors will be con­sid­ered.

“Driv­ers can also have their ap­peal con­sid­ered by an in­de­pen­dent ad­ju­di­ca­tor at the Traf­fic Penalty Tri­bunal if they are still un­happy with our de­ci­sion.”

The bus gate has made £429,000 in fines since open­ing in Oc­to­ber 2017.

£60 The fine is­sued to each driver who used the bus lane (£30 if paid early)

Top, the af­ter­math of the fa­tal crash; above, the bus lane used by driv­ers

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