Campaigners have failed in an attempt to secure refunds for controversial bus lane fines.
Cameras monitoring four bus lanes – also known as bus gates – in Valley Gardens, Brighton, have brought in more than £2 million in fines since they became operational in January last year.
More than 9,600 drivers were sent £60 tickets in October last year – reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days – and the figure was said to be down from August.
A deputation called Refund Valley Gardens Bus Gate Fines, led by Nicholas Hallett, called on Brighton and Hove City Council’s Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee to suspend fines and give drivers their money back.
The submission made to the committee yesterday (Tuesday 15 March) said that the signs were inadequate and the council had not taken action to inform people about the changed layout.
But when the same committee met in January, the council’s head of transport Mark Prior said that the signs along Valley Gardens went “above and beyond” the requirements.
Mr Hallett said that adding new signs and reinstalling removed signs were “an acknowledgement” that the scheme did not adequately guide drivers.
He said: “Because it doesn’t appear in the Highway Code, drivers have not routinely been trained to understand bus gates and their ramifications.
“Also, drivers who have not driven along Marlborough Place, Gloucester Place, St George’s Place and York Place for a couple of years are now likely to be confused by the new, rather unintuitively configured road layout with, among other things, its reliance on bus gates.”
Mr Hallett said that the council should suspend fines until it had installed more signs.
Green councillor Steve Davis, who chaired the meeting yesterday, said that the council reviewed the signs after the January meeting and no changes were required.
Councillor Davis said: “The main reason for lost appeals include medical emergency, incorrect vehicle registration, late provision of evidence, road surface erosion which has been rectified and procedural error.
“Valley Gardens bus gates have been designed using Department for Transport guidance, specifically the transport signs manual.”
Councillor Davis said that bus gates had been in the city for 16 years and the signs were all in order.
Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth asked for a report to consider a redesign of the “defective junctions” in Valley Gardens and a second report to consider returning fines.
He said that bus gates were a “legal oddity” because they were extremely short bus lanes, no longer than the line in the road.
Speaking about the York Place bus gate, Councillor Nemeth said: “The last time that I checked, around half of all motorists were making the error. This is completely unacceptable.
“The promise of a clear road ahead is a honey trap that is surely now in place just to raise funds. A redesign would be so easy but it just hasn’t taken place.”
His fellow Conservative Garry Peltzer Dunn questioned whether it was “morally right” to keep the layout and signs as they were – even though they were legally correct – because drivers kept making mistakes.
Labour councillor Gary Wilkinson said that bus gates were essential to restrict cars and improve bus journeys in high-traffic areas.
He said: “In encouraging sustainable travel, we must ensure that our bus lanes are clear to drivers and that there is clear, understandable signage in place across the city.
“Labour has called for this in respect of the newer bus lanes in the city and I would suggest that more than average bus lane contraventions are flagged up much earlier – which seems to be a mess in the case of the bus gates – in order to review any signage issues.”
Green and Labour councillors voted against refunding fines and reviewing the road layout.