Thomas Bridge 10 February 2015

County could have lost £1m after bus lane camera not turned on

A county council has been branded 'incompetent' after admitting it failed to turn on a bus lane enforcement camera installed five years ago.

Motorists in Colchester have avoided £60 fixed penalty notices for illegally using a local bus lane since 2010, with estimates suggesting the town hall could have missed out on over £1m of fines.

Calls were raised for highways powers to be handed back to local borough councils after Essex County Council confirmed the device had remained switched off since being installed as part of road improvements.

The revelation came to light following a Freedom of Information request for details on the number of fines issued by the camera.

However the town hall maintained the camera had continued to serve as a deterrent to drivers while switched off.

This was not the first time Essex had been at the centre of controversy over its bus lane cameras, with the town last year having to pay back over £1m in fines after admitting signage for new public transport lanes was unclear. Around 30,000 drivers were reimbursed at the time.

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell said the latest incident was 'just the latest example of Essex County Council highways authority incompetence.

'They have turned off our street lights, the town is full of potholes and we have had to endure this debacle on town centre traffic management.

'This latest failure proves the need to return highways and street matters to Colchester Borough Council.'

It was calculated that the county could have missed out on £1m if 10 motorists had been fined £60 using the camera every day since 2010. However the local authority confirmed the device was not installed to generate income.

Eddie Johnson, Essex County Council's cabinet member for highway maintenance, said: 'The camera on Nayland Road was installed in 2010 and we can confirm there are plans for its activation but as yet no set date.

'These cameras are installed to act as a deterrent to motorists against using the bus lane. The camera, despite not being activated, has served this purpose. They are most definitely not installed to generate income.'

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