Automatic number plate recognition cameras will soon be in use to catch “cheeky blighters” gaining ground by using bus lanes in Calderdale when they aren’t supposed to.
Drivers who stray into the lanes will face fines when the cameras are introduced following Calderdale Council’s Cabinet backing of the proposals, which will take in bus lanes and also three access restrictions at Commercial Street, Market Street and King Edward Street in Halifax town centre.
Cabinet members argue it is about freeing up traffic-choked roads in the borough but faced criticism from other councillors who felt it was making a mountain out of a molehill of a problem and would lay it open to accusations it was just about making money.
Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins said the proposal, for which some funding will be available, would enable the council to undertake civil enforcement to ensure the bus lane arrangements were obeyed.
“Frankly, in most cases, they are not,” he said.
The committee were told in an officers’ report that a three-camera trial scheme would cost around £115,000.
Ultimately a capital cost of around £295,000 would be required with another estimated £140,000 needed annually for running costs for a full eight-camera scheme.
Penalty charge notices would be in line with Department of Transport guidelines which are currently £60 (standard charge), £30 (of payment is made within 14 days of the order being served) and £90 (if payment is made after a charge certificate is served).
Councillor Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said the proposal was a small measure which together with other policies would help free up traffic by improving journeys for bus services, encouraging more people to use them instead of their cars, he said.
“This borough is choked to death by car vehicle traffic and we are determined to do whatever small things we can to reverse the situation on health grounds and air quality. This is in that tradition.
“If 60 people are on a bus from Halifax to West Vale, that’s the equivalent of 60 one-person-in-a-car journeys.
“We have a duty to enable more people to see bus travel as a useful option,” said Coun Collins.
To ensure services were not reduced or fares increased, the council needed to stop buses being caught up in traffic unduly which is why the lanes were in place and this move would help achieve that.
But Coun Roger Taylor (Con, Northowram and Shelf) said he drove a bus but could not understand why cars nipping into bus lanes was a concern or why the council was proposing to spend money on it.
“Why is this a problem? There is no concern. I think we have more important issues than this. I really want to know what the end product is going to achieve,” he said.
Councillor Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) agreed with Coun Collins that it was a problem in her experience. “There are a lot of cheeky blighters who nip into the bus lane near King Cross,” she said.
Councillor Paul Bellinger (Lib Dem, Greetland and Stainland) said the people of Calderdale would say it was just a money making scheme for the council and other things - such as the cost of public transport - could be looked at.
Councillor Collins denied that was the reason, saying the scheme was not going to make the council rich. “The penalty arrangements around this won’t make the council a lot of money,” he said.
Councillor Dan Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said people had complained to him countless times about abuse of the restricted access route at Market Street, Halifax.
At present Calderdale has six lengths of bus lane.
They are at the A629 Skircoat Road (Free School Lane to Caygill Terrace), Halifax, which is northbound Mondays to Fridays 7.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6pm; at the A629 Huddersfield Road (Spring Hall to Stafford Square), Halifax, which is southbound Mondays to Fridays, 4pm to 6pm; the A629 at Ainley Top (Huddersfield Road to Ainley Top roundabout), which is southbound 24 hours every day; the A646 Burnley Road (Trimmingham Lane to Warley Road), Halifax, which is eastbound Mondays to Fridays, 7.30am to 9.30am; the A646 King Cross slip road into the King Cross district centre, Halifax, which is eastbound 24 hours every day; and Wade Street, Halifax (which is specific to the needs of taxis and the local shoppers’ bus serving the Sainsbury’s store), which is westbound 24 hours a day.