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Almost a thousand drivers caught out on Manchester's Oxford Road bus lanes everyday

Photo: MEN Media

Almost 1,000 motorists every day have been caught driving in bus lanes since a controversial new system was introduced in Manchester last year - netting the council an estimated £10m in fines.

Drivers using the busy Oxford Road corridor, which runs from central to south Manchester, wrongly entered the lanes nearly 350,000 times in less than 12 months.

Manchester City Council confirmed it has issued 345,536 penalty notices since the ‘bus gates’ banning general traffic were launched in September 2017, which equates to nearly a thousand a day.

If all those issued with tickets, minus the tribunal appeals we know about, paid £30 - the minimum amount which must be paid within 14 days - the council will have raked in an estimated £10.4m.

There were 138,805 fines on Oxford Road stretch between Hathersage Road and Nelson Street and 143,094 on Oxford Street between Whitworth Street West and Chepstow Street.

That means 81 per cent of the total fines were accrued over a section of road just 450 metres long.

Credit: MEN Media

The calculation excludes successful appeals to Manchester City Council - information it did not provide.

Nor would the council reveal the exact amount they have collected from fines - so taking into account possible £60 and £90 fares for payments outside the 14 days, the figure could be even more.

The council insists that a ‘reasonably diligent’ motorist should be able to navigate the no-go areas, and that only a ‘tiny percentage’ of appeals against fines are upheld on grounds of signage.

However, they have also conceded they have applied to the Department for Transport for extra signage.

Credit: MEN Media

The Traffic Penalty Tribunal, which deals with appeals from drivers after the council has turned them down, found that the vast majority - 88 per cent of last-chance appeals - had been successful.

And 60 per cent of those successful appeals were due to inadequate signage.

A Traffic Penalty Tribunal spokesman said:

“Adjudicators have found that the signs on some sections of the Oxford Road bus route fail to meet the required standard, taking into account the signs regulations and the Department for Transport guidance to authorities in the Traffic Signs Manual.”

– A Traffic Penalty Tribunal spokesman

A breakdown of locations where appeals are successful is also a useful indicator of where drivers are getting stung.

Figures from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal since last September show:

  • Out of 17 appeals between Hathersage Road and Denmark Road, nine were approved, with the council contesting just one.
  • Out of 303 appeals between Denmark Road and Nelson Street, 276 were allowed, including 114 not contested by the council at tribunal.
  • There were no appeals for the Oxford Road Devas Street-Dover Street section.
  • There were no appeals for the Burlington Street-Grosvenor Street section.
  • - There were no appeals for the Grosvenor Street-Brancaster Road.
  • On Charles Street-Brancaster Road, there were 94 appeals dealt with and 89 allowed. The council didn’t contest 64 of those.
  • Out of the 186 appeals received for the Oxford Street Whitworth Street West - Chepstow Street run, 156 have been green-lighted - including 50 the council didn’t contest with the tribunal.

Oxford Road - one of Europe’s busiest bus routes - was transformed into what transport chiefs describe as a ‘Dutch boulevard’ last September.

It means vehicles other than buses, black cabs and cyclists are banned from sections of the corridor - which also features new segregated cycle paths - from 6am to 9pm daily.

‘Bus gates’ - sections where cars aren’t allowed - are marked with a red circle, with a motorbike above a car inside.

One covers the area from Hathersage Road near Whitworth Park through to Grosvenor Street, near Johnny Roadhouse Music, in both directions.

There’s then a section between Grosvenor Street and Charles Street where traffic can’t travel out of the city centre.

A bus gate spans the Oxford Street area from Whitworth Street West to Chepstow Street. That section just covers traffic heading north, towards the city centre.

People can also drive on small sections between Nelson Street and Devas Street and also between Dover Street and Burlington Street. These routes are intended for ‘deliveries and servicing’ for the universities and hospital.

The new-look road has been welcomed by many, including cycling tsar and Olympian Chris Boardman, who has revealed plans to replicate the bike-friendly road across Greater Manchester.

But it’s been controversial among some motorists who claim the signage is inadequate - particularly on the Oxford Street section.

Credit: MEN Media

Brian Kearns has successfully taken Manchester Council to tribunal after they dismissed his appeal to a fine issued near Whitworth Street.

Brian was trying to get out of the centre via Whitworth Street and he followed his sat nav at the Palace Theatre junction on to Oxford Road. He says it was raining and he didn’t see any signs or road markings to alert him of the bus lane.

The adjudicator’s conclusion on his case reads: “Overall I have concluded that the signage fails to meet the required standard. It is not surprising that Mr Kearns inadvertently strayed into the bus lane. He did not have enough warning so that he could avoid it.”

Brian said: “The signage is very ambiguous and doesn’t state that you are coming to a bus lane. It’s only visible to traffic travelling on Oxford Road and not turning on to it from Whitworth Street.

“Also the camera’s location gives you no chance to correct your mistake if you turn left.”

Brian, 40, a graphic designer from Sale, Greater Manchester, said he won’t have been the first driver to have fallen foul of what he claims to be ‘inadequate signage’.

Brian said: “I think there could be a case that all PCNs could have been illegal or incorrectly issued.”

A Manchester City Council spokesman said drivers on millions of journeys had correctly followed alternative routes avoiding Oxford Road since the bus gates became operational last September.

The council said it had reduced journey times for bus users and improved the experience for cyclists and pedestrians.

The spokesman added:

“While appeals involving a tiny proportion of the overall number of penalty notices issued have been upheld by adjudicators on grounds of signage, the council’s view is that the signs are fully compliant with the relevant legislation and provide adequate notice of the bus lanes and diversion routes.

“When we have trialled the use of additional electronic messages and temporary signs it has made barely any difference to the number of infringements.

“We keep signage and the operation of the bus gate under constant review, and indeed we are currently waiting Department for Transport approval for extra signage to further help motorists, but our position remains that a reasonably diligent motorist will be aware of both the diversion and enforcement signs.”

– Manchester City Council