A single bus lane camera trapped more than 6,000 motorists in its first ten months in operation – raking in more than £250,000 for Leeds City Council.
Between March and December last year the council issued 6,259 tickets to people who were filmed straying into the lane on Kirkstall Road by the camera situated at the junction with Viaduct Road.
The £250,850 in fines generated by the camera dwarfed the average income of £38,000 from the city’s other 39 bus lane cameras in the previous 12 months.
The council said the cameras were designed to reduce congestion and encourage public transport usage – and the income was ring-fenced for highways spending.
But Earnest Carter – an attendant at the nearby petrol station – said: “It’s just a money-making racket. People know they are not to go into the lane and they don’t go in it unless they have to.”
Motorists face a £30 fine for using the bus lane, rising to £60 if they fail to pay within 14 days.
Figures show the camera generated £12,514 in its first month. Fines peaked at £52,060 in April before declining steadily to £6,270 in November.
The figure rose again to £11,910 in December. A spokesman for the Automobile Association said: “It looks like the council gave lots of Christmas shoppers a nice little memento of their journey into Leeds.”
He added fines were acceptable for inconsiderate drivers but there needed to be “discretion” shown towards motorists who strayed into the lane, especially to allow emergency vehicles past.
Leeds businessman Ian Kerry, who uncovered the figures following a freedom of information request, said the camera was unfairly positioned.
“It’s situated too close to the end of the bus lane and films those who drift into the lane to make a permitted left turn,” he said.
“The focus is set to directly in front of the camera itself so it captures people cutting the last few yards of the bus lane to make the turn.
A council spokesman said: “The 39 bus lanes throughout Leeds are part of the city’s commitment to reduce congestion and improve public transport links.
“We closely monitor the impact of bus lane enforcement in different locations to make sure the measures we have taken are delivering the best possible outcomes for road users.”
He added that the decline in fines being issued showed drivers were getting the message.
COUNCIL CRITICISED AS DRIVER WINS APPEAL
The council has been heavily criticised after a businessman successfully appealed against a fine for driving in the bus lane on Kirkstall Road.
Property consultant Ian Kerry, 41, was given a penalty charge notice after straying into the lane on August 6 last year.
Mr Kerry was set to argue he should not be forced to pay because he was in the lane for less than 20 metres – a distance he said was permissible under the rules set out by other councils.
He wrote to the council asking for more information – but was told his appeal had been rejected before he had even made his case.
However, after taking the matter to a traffic penalty tribunal, his ticket was overturned.
The adjudicator in the case slammed the council for rejecting Mr Kerry’s appeal out of hand.
A written judgement said the council had “paid no regard at all to the possibility that he might wish to raise mitigation” in his defence.
It added: “The council are obliged, of course, to consider not only if there was a contravention but, if and only if there was, what other information might mitigate it.
“Rejection only because there was a contravention is the wrong approach to their duty under the regulations.”
Figures show 136 of the 6,259 tickets issued in relation to the same camera last year were cancelled as the result of appeals.
Mr Kerry said: “There’s clearly a rush on the part of the council to get their hands on the money as soon as possible. I’m virtually certain that there are many other people who would have legitimate grounds to appeal.”