'Kerching': controversial Wellingborough bus gate fines top £600,000
As many motorists were fined in the first three months as in the following seven
Fines for motorists misusing the Wellingborough town centre 'bus gate' have raked in a mammoth £604,688.94 in just ten months, new figures have revealed.
Cameras monitoring a shortcut in the town centre, using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, have picked up more than 20,000 transgressors since February 2021.
No vehicles are allowed to cut-through, that links the one-way system from Church Street with Market Street, between 9am and 4.30pm between Monday and Saturday except for local buses and taxis.
Since its installation 2,855 people have appealed their fines after being caught with 11 per cent (322) successfully getting out of paying the charges - the contravention penalty is £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
Retired school teacher Pas Renda was one of the unsuccessful 89 per cent having been caught three times in eight days, leaving him with a potential £180 bill.
He said: "I paid the first two sending a cheque for £60 immediately. I didn't know what it was for, then a third one arrived between me paying the other two.
"While I was waiting to pay it I did an FOI (Freedom of Information request) and saw they had made hundreds of thousands of pounds. On one hand Wellingborough has the best car park in the county, then on the other there is the bus gate.
"It serves no purpose. What's the point of it? To go through three times and I'm quite intelligent. I would love people to get involved and give the council a good rollicking."
Instead of paying the third fine, Mr Renda chose to go to appeal, determined to fight it.
He prepared a comprehensive seven-page ten-point defence setting out his reasons why he thought the 15m-long bus gate was not legitimate.
The grandfather-of-eight said: "I came up with every reason that I could think of, from that the council has a duty of care to all motorists in that all street signs and notices of restrictions should be clearly visible, not confusing or misleading to my belief that the road markings were faded and not easily read. I also thought that the address used for the bus gate - Market Street - was the wrong address, it's an intersection of Park Road, Church Street, Cambridge Street and Market Street."
Despite Mr Renda's protests the Traffic Penalty Tribunal dismissed his appeal. He has since paid the fine that had risen to £60.
Up until December 16, a total 20,146 fines had been issued with 2,855 appeals been received. A total of 322 have been successful and 274 have yet to be decided.
In the first three months of the new bus gate scheme at least £300,000 was raised with fewer motorists now caught out.
Val Wilson, co-owner of Rutherfords locksmith shop in Market Street, can see the bus gate from her shop and watches motorists pass through.
She said: "Every time someone drives through we say 'kerching'. The gate causes congestion because the traffic backs up. We have a customer who won't come again because he got caught three times in one week."
North Northamptonshire Council has not responded to a request for comment.
Northamptonshire Highways uses money received from bus lane fines to pay for the cost of enforcement including the camera system, maintenance of bus lane signs and lines, printing and postage to issue penalty charge notices (PCN), staff to check and process PCNs and appeals.