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CAUGHT OUT: Review of Wolverhampton Street bus lane “trap”

CAUGHT OUT: Review of Wolverhampton Street bus lane “trap”

Wolverhampton Street in Walsall town centre, Image: Google Street View

People still being snared by a Walsall bus lane labelled a “trap” probably shouldn’t be driving at all, according to council boss Mike Bird.

Walsall Council has started a review into the Wolverhampton Street bus gate which has caught out drivers and seen almost 25,000 fines being dished out.

At a full council meeting on Monday (January 10), Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz put forward a motion calling for the gate to be scrapped and all those fined to date to be refunded.

But Councillor Bird said anyone still getting caught given the amount of publicity the controversial measure has attracted and extra signage put up at the site needed to get their eyes tested.

A traffic regulation order (TRO) was introduced in November 2020 to cut traffic coming into the town centre with fines starting to be issued in July last year.

Shocking figures showed a total of almost 25,000 fixed penalty notices had been issued to drivers which saw the authority rake in £410,000. The fines are £30 but go up to £60 if not paid within two weeks.

Councillor Nawaz said: “People contacted me when they were getting tickets when they were driving through Wolverhampton Street.

“At that time I thought it was a one-off but I was getting a lot of calls. When I looked into it, I found that so many people were getting caught was a concern. And we had statistics 25,000 tickets were issued.

“This was a bad idea. So many people getting caught out in my view was a trap. We accepted every appeal that came to us. We gave people their money back.

“We ask we re-look at this with a consideration of removing this bus gate and we try and do more to get the public on board with this.

“And we also give the money back to the people who were fined. It is only the right thing to do.”

But the motion was defeated and deputy leader Adrian Andrew said: “The review of this bus gate has already been put in place.

“I had some conversations with businesses and we’ve already started the review of this particular bus gate.

“It is not a permanent one. It was put in place as an operational matter as part of the short term measures to facilitate operation of the town centre during Covid.

“But more strategically, this particular traffic regulation order was part of the town centre masterplan.

“I would agree when this was installed there wasn’t enough signage and that has been rectified.

“In terms of trying to – and I understand the sentiment because we asked the question as well – refund everybody, it wouldn’t be possible to refund everyone who has done the PCNs.

“Many were paid with cash or at a pay point. PCNs issued against lease cars are paid for by the hire company and then recharged to the driver and it’s not possible to refund payments to expired debit cards.

“Of the 25,000 PCNs only six per cent have been appealed. Most of the appeals, particularly before the signage was improved, have been agreed.

“We won’t be bounced into removing it, we won’t be bounced into anything in the town centre from a notice of motion. A review has already started and that will take its process.”

Council leader Mike Bird warned members to ‘declare an interest’ if they’d been fined if they intended on voting for the motion.

He added: “I have to say, if you go into the bus lane after all the publicity it has had, I’d question whether you should be driving at all. It might be very well that your eyesight requirements are short. My advice is ‘don’t go down the bus lane’.”

 

Words: Gurdip Thandi, Local Democracy Reporter


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