Scrap fines for using bus lanes at night, police say
Relaxing bus lane enforcement in the early hours could help cut crime and disorder, police say.
Motorists face £60 fines if they stray into bus zones in Charles Street and Causeway Lane, in Leicester.
The cameras are operational round the clock, but police have written to Leicester City Council outlining a case to cease enforcement at the times when pubs and clubs are closing.
Hackney cabs are permitted to use the bus lanes, but private hire taxis are not.
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The council asked the police for its views on the enforcement regime, which started in the summer, as part of a review on how it is working.
Graham Compton, Leicestershire police's senior traffic management officer responded with a letter, which said: "It is felt that a relaxation of the 24/7 bus lane camera enforcement in Charles Street and Causeway Lane would be of benefit to the police during the early hours.
"This would assist in promptly clearing the streets of persons leaving public houses and nightclubs, thereby reducing the risk of public disorder.
"The force has always maintained the view that the bus lanes are primarily designed to assist bus drivers and passengers during peak traffic periods, that is 7am to 9.30am and 4pm to 6.30pm."
A force spokeswoman said: "One of the key factors in keeping order in the city centre at night is making sure people can get home quickly at the end of the night.
"Allowing cars – and. more specifically, private hire vehicles – access to the bus lanes could help that.
"At the times we are talking about, there are very few or no buses running anyway."
Mr Compton's letter said any further bus lane camera enforcement in the city's inner core "may have disbenefits as far as public order in the city centre is concerned, unless changes to operating times are included with the equipment".
Between July and the end of January, nearly 29,000 drivers were caught by the cameras, generating some £689,000 in fines for the council. The authority said it was reinvesting the money in public transport projects in the city.
Parjit Singh, 24, of Belgrave, Leicester, said he thought the cameras should only operate at peak times.
He said: "I don't get why the cameras have to catch people at times when there are no buses running.
"In the middle of the night they are solving a problem that does not exist.
"I think they should be turned off when the buses stop running."
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby, who is in charge of transport policy, said: "Causeway Lane is the bus lane where this is a real issue.
"I have asked officers to have a look at alternative traffic flows because there may be some other way of dealing with this.
"I will await the scrutiny commission's report and consider its suggestions."