£15K BUS LANE FINES AFTER M-WAY SMASH
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