Fishergate cameras set to return

The bus lane enforcement scheme - which saw 30,000 given tickets, only to have their money refunded - is being updated to make it legal.
The bus lane enforcement scheme - which saw 30,000 given tickets, only to have their money refunded - is being updated to make it legal.
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Preston’s infamous bus lane cameras are set to be switched back on.

The new Tory administration at County Hall looks certain to bring back the controversial system by the start of September.

The bus lane enforcement scheme - which saw 30,000 given tickets, only to have their money refunded - is being updated to make it legal.

Four large new signs have been added on Fishergate itself, as well as Fox Street, Lune Street and Chapel Street. A sign will also be added at the top of Butler Street.

The County Council cabinet will meet next Thursday to debate a return to “fining” motorists who drive down a section of Fishergate between 11am and 6pm.

Councillors will also look at new traffic arrangements in Church Street and Lune Street to help ease the flow of vehicles.

“If the cabinet gives the go-ahead, we’ll reintroduce camera enforcement and carry out advertising and promotion to make people aware of these bus lanes,” said Phil Barrett, director of community services.

“We know that many people are already aware of them and if this is agreed then we’re planning to do what we can to get the message out even further. Our aim is to secure compliance with the regulations, not to see anyone being caught. And cameras are an effective way to enforce them.”

The cameras were switched on in the build-up to last Christmas in an attempt to ease congestion in the city centre’s worst traffic bottleneck.

Despite widespread publicity thousands of motorists carried on using the stretch of Fishergate between Mount Street and Corporation Street during the four months before the scheme was eventually suspended.

The public furore which followed the issue of £60 fines prompted an investigation by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. An inspector travelled to Preston to hear five appeals against the tickets and he ruled the scheme was unfair because of inadequate warning signs on streets leading into Fishergate.

As a result the system was suspended, the cameras were switched off and the council announced it would be making refunds to drivers who applied.

Of around 30,000 people who were ticketed, only 9,000 asked for a refund - costing the authority more than £250,000.

The scheme was sent back to the drawing board. But, in May, a Conservative administration was voted in at County Hall and the new council leaders have been looking in detail at the controversial scheme to assess whether it should be brought back.

“There has been a significant increase in motorists ignoring these restrictions since camera enforcement was suspended,” added Mr Barrett.

“We’ve had support from businesses and bus operators, and we’ll be changing the signing to address the adjudicators’ findings.

“We recognise that these bus lanes significantly affected people using the St George’s Shopping Centre car park and in Avenham, so we’ve looked in detail at other measures, such as the removal of the bus lane on Church Street.

“This which would add extra capacity and help people travelling to and from the city centre.

“We’re also seeking agreement from the cabinet to look into options for a new junction from Ringway onto Lune Street, providing an exit for cars from the St George’s Shopping Centre car park.

“We believe that these changes would help to reduce some of the issues that we identified during the trial period and improve the overall experience in the city centre for drivers and pedestrians.

“The proposals for Lune Street are at an early stage and still need looking into in more detail, with public consultation as part of the process.”

The council says the aim is to ease traffic flow in the city centre, providing a boost for shops and businesses, and improving the experience for shoppers in the main retail areas. The cabinet report has been put together following a detailed six-month evaluation and consultation period.