Wimbledon’s money making bus lane

August 06, 2012 9:44 AM

Furious car owners in Wimbledon, southwest London, have accused Merton London Borough Council of using a bus lane as a money making venture. The Hartfield Road bus lane in Wimbledon town centre generated a staggering £148,008 in penalty charges in just 10 weeks after it was introduced last November. In its first five months, the takings from motorists caught on spy cameras rose to nearly £300,000.

Hartfield Road is one-way, with the inside lane reserved for buses. Motorists turning left to enter or leave side roads must do so through narrow breaks in the bus lane. Many have found the signage confusing, leading to them enter unwittingly the bus lane and incur penalties. One such driver, a visitor to Wimbledon, appealed against a £139 penalty charge he received last February. At a hearing this month of the Parking and Traffic Appeals service, photos taken from CCTV cameras in February revealed that one sign actually pointed the wrong way. The driver won his appeal.

On July 11th, a group of councillors delivered a motion to scrap the bus lane. They were voted down in the council chamber when the administration triumphantly produced evidence that the measure had improved bus journey times. A survey by Transport for London showed that the average journey time fell by 17 per cent during morning rush hour and 13 per cent over the course of a day. Conclusive, you might think. But this bus lane is short and, according to Councillor Chris Edge, the 17 per cent saving in journey time amounts to—just 35 seconds!

Many who use Hartfield Road don't believe that any time at all is saved. ‘The bus lane actually causes cars to back up and block buses,’ comments one post on the Wimbledon Guardian website. ‘Bus congestion is simply a joke and cyclists take their lives in their hands as motorists have to turn left across two lanes of traffic to avoid being fined,’ says another. In a letter to the editor published on August 2nd, infuriated local resident Natalie Ruth writes: ‘I believe Merton Council designed this bus lane in this way for no other reason than to make money from road users.’ Not so much a traffic improvement scheme, then—more a stealth tax.

 Furious car owners in Wimbledon, southwest London, have accused Merton London Borough Council of using a bus lane as a money making venture. The Hartfield Road bus lane in Wimbledon town centre generated a staggering £148,008 in penalty charges in just 10 weeks after it was introduced last November. In its first five months, the takings from motorists caught on spy cameras rose to nearly £300,000.

Hartfield Road is one-way, with the inside lane reserved for buses. Motorists turning left to enter or leave side roads must do so through narrow breaks in the bus lane. Many have found the signage confusing, leading to them enter unwittingly the bus lane and incur penalties. One such driver, a visitor to Wimbledon, appealed against a £139 penalty charge he received last February. At a hearing this month of the Parking and Traffic Appeals service, photos taken from CCTV cameras in February revealed that one sign actually pointed the wrong way. The driver won his appeal.

On July 11th, a group of councillors delivered a motion to scrap the bus lane. They were voted down in the council chamber when the administration triumphantly produced evidence that the measure had improved bus journey times. A survey by Transport for London showed that the average journey time fell by 17 per cent during morning rush hour and 13 per cent over the course of a day. Conclusive, you might think. But this bus lane is short and, according to Councillor Chris Edge, the 17 per cent saving in journey time amounts to—just 35 seconds!

Many who use Hartfield Road don't believe that any time at all is saved. ‘The bus lane actually causes cars to back up and block buses,’ comments one post on the Wimbledon Guardian website. ‘Bus congestion is simply a joke and cyclists take their lives in their hands as motorists have to turn left across two lanes of traffic to avoid being fined,’ says another. In a letter to the editor published on August 2nd, infuriated local resident Natalie Ruth writes: ‘I believe Merton Council designed this bus lane in this way for no other reason than to make money from road users.’ Not so much a traffic improvement scheme, then—more a stealth tax.

 

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