Pensioner's battle to rid Wellingborough of 'pointless, money-making' bus gate

The bus gate generated £694,447.90 in income in the first year

By Alison Bagley
Friday, 18th March 2022, 6:05 am

A pensioner has vowed to campaign against Wellingborough's bus gate scheme which caught him and thousands of motorists, raking in a six-figure sum for a council in the process.

No vehicles are allowed to use cut-through, which links the one-way system from Church Street with Market Street, between 9am and 4.30pm from Monday and Saturday except for local buses and taxis.

Fines for motorists misusing the town centre shortcut have generated a mammoth £694,447.90 in the first 12 months of enforcement, new figures have revealed.

Pas Renda will hand in his petition to North Northants Council

Cameras monitoring the cut-through, using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, have picked up more than 22,253 transgressors since February 2021.

Pensioner Pas Renda, 73, was one of those to be caught and has taken to the streets in a one-man protest to garner support from residents against the scheme.

Ever since being caught three times in eight days, leaving him with a potential £180 bill, and failing to win his appeal against the fines, he has vowed to get the bus gate removed.

He said: "I've been asking people to sign my petition. All the shops in the town centre have been leafleted. I have written an open letter to get support, seek views and focus attention on the removal of the bus gate at the junction of Church Street with Market Street.

Buses and taxis can pass through the 'gate' without being fined, other vehicles can only use the road at certain times of the day without facing a penalty

"I have had some very encouraging comments and heard some horror stories. Only two businesses that I talked to thought that the bus gate was a good idea.

"It is giving Wellingborough a bad name. It serves no purpose. It's pointless and is a 'honey-pot' money-making scheme. If I was in charge I would get rid of it."

The retired Northampton school teacher sent out a letter to businesses in Wellingborough as part of his campaign and has contacted every elected member on North Northamptonshire Council.

Since its installation in February 2021 3,016 appeals against fines have been received, of which 349 have been successful and 231 are yet to be decided.

In the first three months of the new bus gate scheme at least £300,000 in fines was generated. As motorists have become more aware since, fewer are now caught out. But since December nearly £90,000 more has been raised in revenue from the contravention penalty of £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Northamptonshire Highways uses money received from bus gate 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) and staff to check and process PCNs and appeals.

Mr Renda intends to hand in his petition to the full council meeting on March 31.

He added: "The bus gate serves no purpose. It doesn't serve the interests of Wellingborough town centre. Customers are being put off coming into Wellingborough. Hundreds and hundreds of people have been caught. I urge people to speak up.

"I don't live in Wellingborough, but when something is wrong, it's wrong. If it was reducing pollution or saving lives then it would be OK, but traffic can use the road from Cambridge Street.

"It's a complete and utter mess."

Wellingborough business owner Sivasamboo Rasigaran, manager of Kaka Stores in Church Street near to the bus gate, has also been fined for passing through.

He said: "Last time I paid £90. That thing (the bus gate) is very, very bad for the businesses. When the road is backed up, people go through it."

Cllr Graham Lawman, North Northamptonshire Council’s executive member for highways, travel and assets, said: “The bus enforcement in Wellingborough was introduced to enforce a pre-existing bus gate which allows buses to pass freely through the town centre along Market Street and Midland Road. Reducing car traffic on these roads enhances the opportunities for cycling and walking safely and makes the shopping experience more pleasant.

“Enforcement began on February 15 last year as part of a wider initiative to encourage people to use more sustainable forms of transport.

“A real challenge to promoting bus travel is guaranteeing reliable journey times. We believe this plan will make significant improvements in making bus travel an attractive option for commuters by reducing congestion.

“We encourage drivers to adhere to the bus gate by not driving through it and avoid receiving a fine.

“The enforcement measures are working in that month on month the number of tickets being issued is reducing, meaning fewer drivers are using the bus gate.

“The bus gate enforcement, like any new initiative, will be kept under review to ensure that it is working as intended. We are still in this monitoring stage.”

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