Councils make £60m a year in bus lane fines: here’s how to appeal if you’ve been unfairly charged
Councils around the UK raked in almost £60 million from bus lane fines in 2019, according to the latest data.
More than two million penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued to drivers who wrongly used the specialist lanes, with motorists in Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham the most likely to be caught on camera.
Manchester and Glasgow also made the most money - £4.8m and £3.4m respectively - although Lambeth made more money than Birmingham from fewer tickets, with revenue of £2.9m in 2019.
Bus lanes are dedicated stretches of road designed to give public transport clearer uninterrupted routes through towns and cities. Any car driver using one during a period of restrictions can expect to receive a PCN but research by Confused.com has found that many drivers say their actions were accidental, caused by poor signage or road markings.
According to a survey by the comparison site, 36 per cent of drivers appealled their bus lane penalty and more than one in three (38 per cent) of them did so on the basis that the signs weren’t clear enough. Another 31 per cent said unclear road markings were to blame for their transgression. A rather optimistic 18 per cent appealed on moral grounds, claiming their fine was a revenue generating exercise rather than a legitimate penalty.
What’s more, according to Confused’s poll, 41 per cent of drivers were successful in their appeals and had the penalty dismissed, so it's worth knowing how to contest a charge if you think it was issued unfairly.
How to spot a bus lane
Bus lanes should be pretty obviously marked. They are separated from regular traffic lanes by a solid painted white line, with a dotted white line at their start and end. They are often painted a different colour from the main roadway and will have the words Bus Lane painted in them.
There should also be signs at the start of any bus lane stating its hours of operation. Confusingly, these restrictions vary from location to location and even by day of the week. In some instances cars are banned from bus lanes at all times, in others it is only at peak traffic hours.
If the sign doesn’t include any operating hours, it is in operation 24 hours a day and cannot be used by cars at any point.
How to appeal a bus lane fine
Appealing a bus lane fine is like appealing against any other form of PCN, such as a parking ticket.
You will need to write to the issuing body, usually the local council, with the details of the PCN (your vehicle details, the PCN number and the date of the offence) and explain your grounds for appealing.
If you think the PCN has been issued unfairly you will need to provide evidence to support this.
Common reasons to appeal a bus lane PCN are that the signage or road markings are obscured or unclear; the offence didn’t occur; the vehicle involved isn’t yours or was stolen before the offence. Some people have also been fined for offences committed by a driver using cloned plates. You can also appeal if the charge exceeds the relevant amount (£65 outside of London, £160 in London).
In any case, you will need to provide evidence to support your argument, such as photos of the road sign/markings, documents or witnesses that prove you didn’t commit the offence.
You could also appeal if you think you had no alternative but to use the bus lane. This could be because the main road was blocked, you were trying to avoid an accident or you were moving out of the way of an emergency vehicle. You can also use a bus lane to load/unload unless restrictions indicate this is prohibited.
Confused has created a challenge checklist to help drivers navigate the ins and outs of appealing an unfair PCN.
When you notify the issuing body of an appeal the charge cost will freeze until a decision is made. If you are successful you won’t have to pay the charge. If you are not, you can pay the fine or take the matter to a tribunal. Depending on where you live this will be the In England and Wales this is the Traffic Penalty Tribunal for England and Wales, the Parking and Bus Lane Tribunal for Scotland or the Northern Ireland Traffic Penalty Tribunal.