Almost 6,000 fewer bus lanes fines handed out in Preston in last 12 months

Posted on - 5th May, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston City Centre, Preston News, Roads, Transport
Fishergate in Preston
Fishergate in Preston

Almost 6,000 fewer bus lane fines were handed out in Preston over the last 12 months compared to the previous year  – suggesting that motorists might finally be getting the message about restrictions that have been in place for many years at more than half a dozen locations across the city.

Figures obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) reveal that the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued by Lancashire County Council for flouting bus-only rules in Preston fell from 35,157 in 2022 to 29,158 last year.  

There was a slump in fines at six of the seven city sites watched over by cameras to ensure stretches of road reserved for buses and other authorised vehicles are not strayed into by other drivers.  

Read more: Hope for Preston Guild Hall foyer to open this year as five years of closure draws near

However, the one location that bucked the trend was the most controversial of them all – on the stretch of Fishergate between Mount Street and Corporation Street.

Notwithstanding its well-publicised notoriety since it was first introduced eight years ago, almost 8,800 unauthorised vehicles crossed into the bus gate during its hours of operation between 11am and 6pm – an increase of almost 700 on the previous 12 months.   That tally is, though, well down on the near 31,000 fines issued to misguided motorists at that location back in 2018/19.

Across Lancashire as a whole, there was a fall of more than 5,000 fines issued between the 2021/22 and 2023/24 financial years – from 41,501 in 2021/22 to 36,324 in 2023/24.   It appears to indicate a sustained trend, with bus lane PCNs down by around 11,000 over the last six years.

However, Preston remains the bus lane and bus gate capital of the county – with the facilities generating 29,158 in fines last year.

Just yards away from Preston’s most breached bus-only area on Fishergate, the no-right-turn restriction at the top of Butler Street, close to the railway station – introduced to prevent traffic entering the Fishergate Hill bus lane – was missed or ignored on 7,300 occasions, a reduction of around 800 compared to 2023.

At the other end of Fishergate, the longstanding bus gate at the junction of Cheapside still managed to flummox 4,700 drivers in 2023 – down by around 500 on the year before.

Elsewhere in the city, the most significant drop in bus lane breaches came at one of the newest controlled routes – on Tithebarn Street, opposite the bus station.  That spot generated almost 4,000 PCNs last year, down more than 3,500 on 2022  – and just a third of the almost 12,000 fines handed out in 2021 when the restriction was first introduced.

On the outskirts of the city, the bus gate designed to prevent Preston-bound traffic leaving the village of Broughton via Garstang Road – which used to be the only option for doing so before the Broughton bypass opened more than six years ago –  saw a significant slump in fines of more than 1,500.   However, the clearly-signed restriction was nevertheless still flouted on more than 4,200 occasions in 2023.

The statistics for bus lane breaches do not show repeat offenders – so the same vehicles may account for more than one of the PCNs issued.

Meanwhile, Prestonians are preparing to welcome another bus gate camera into their midst, with the imminent switch-on of the kit to monitor the bus-only area introduced on Corporation Street, between Marsh Lane and Heatley Street.  

Read more: Corporation Street bus gate won’t now start from Tuesday

As the LDRS revealed last month, Preston is in line for a ninth bus lane, with  Lancashire County Council planning to create a facility for city-bound buses on New Hall Lane between Fishwick Road and Witton Street.  

While fines are on the slide, a restricted area introduced in Burnley shows the capacity  new bus lanes still have to catch out unsuspecting motorists – in spite of the installation of signs warning them of the changes.

Almost 25,000 drivers were handed a PCN for travelling through the ‘bus gate’ on Hammerton Street in the town – at the junction with Hargreaves Street – during its first full calendar year in operation in 2023.   That was by far the most flouted bus restriction across Lancashire in that timeframe.

Impact on LCC coffers

Lancashire County Council has yet to publish its income from bus lane fines for 2023/24.

However, the authority says it receives an average of £35 for each penalty charge notice (PCN) issued for that purpose.  

On that basis, the LDRS estimates that the 5,177 fewer PCNs generated during the last financial year compared to 2022/23 is likely to cost County Hall in the region of £182,000.

The standard bus lane fine is £70, but that amount is halved if the charge is paid within 21 days.  A combination of the number of drivers who take up that option – together with those who successfully challenge their PCN and get it cancelled altogether – explains the average £35 income for each bus lane contravention.

In 2022/23, £1.8m worth of bus lane PCNs were issued by the county council.  However, fines totalling £233,000 were cancelled, while a further £122,000 worth were deemed unrecoverable even after the potential involvement of bailiffs.   

Peter Bell, regulation and enforcement manager for Lancashire County Council, told the LDRS: “We would be happy if everyone followed the rules and we never had to issue a penalty for…someone entering a bus lane.

“We have always expected income from bus lane enforcement to fall over time as people’s awareness of them increases.”

Preston in numbers

Fishergate (Mount Street to Corporation Street):  8,099 >>> 8,795 – up 696

Fishergate (Cheapside):  5,269 >>> 4,708 – down 561

Fishergate Hill (County Hall):  188 >>> 115 – down 73

Butler Street (junction with Fishergate Hill):  8,107 >>> 7,298 – down 809

Tithebarn Street:  7,571 >>> 3,977 – down 3,594

Lords Walk:  209 >>> 60 – down 149

Garstang Road (Broughton):  5,714 >>> 4,205 – down 1,509

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