Northern Ireland

Belfast: Three 24-hour bus-lanes to be scrapped

The 24-hour bus lane on East Bridge Street Image copyright Google
Image caption The 24-hour bus lane on East Bridge Street

Three 24-hour Belfast bus lanes are to be scrapped.

One of the three is the controversial lane beside Central Station, which will instead operate from 07:00 to 19:00 like most other bus lanes in the city.

There were complaints about the camera operating 24 hours a day - even when buses are not running.

Two other 24-hour cameras, on the Upper Newtownards Road and the Saintfield Road at Forestside, will also have their hours reduced.

It comes after figures revealed more than 2,000 people have been fined for driving in Belfast's city centre bus lanes between the hours of 00:00 and 06:00.

City centre buses do not run at night, with the latest one ending before midnight.

Figures obtained from the Belfast Telegraph in a Freedom of Information request revealed 115 of these were fines issued on East Bridge Street and 2,090 fines issued on the Castle Street bus lane.

Minister for Infrastructure Chris Hazzard asked for the matter to be reviewed.

A Department for Infrastructure spokesperson said: "A review of all 24-hour bus lanes took place in March.

"It recommended that three of the 24-hour bus lanes could be amended to 7am to 7pm, including East Bridge Street, Saintfield Road at Forestside and Upper Newtownards Road.

"Legislation is currently being prepared to enable these changes to be made."

Image caption Cllr Jim Rogers says he believes 24-hour bus lanes will be done away with

Councillor Jim Rogers told BBC News NI he had been keen to see an end to 24-hour bus lanes.

"When they were first introduced I couldn't believe it. Our buses and trains don't run 24 hours," he said.

"I remember saying to the department 'What's the reason for this?' They could give me no answer.

"Bus lanes are causing mayhem and driving people out of the city centre."

Since June 2015, motorists who drive in the lanes have faced a £90 fine, which is reduced to £45 if paid within two weeks.

There are more than 60 bus lanes across the city.

Bus lanes were introduced as part of the On the Move traffic plan. Last year, Ciaran de Burca from the Department for Regional Develoment's transport projects division told Stormont MLAs that the scheme was not about making revenue.

More than £500,000 was raised from fines between 22 June and 16 September 2015.

He said he and his staff did not believe that they would raise this level of fines.

Extra signs had been put up in efforts to reduce the number of drivers being caught out, he added.

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