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Bus lane guidance and information

We have commenced Bus lane enforcement by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras in the Chester area as of August 2019. If you drive illegally in a bus lane then you may receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). Warning notices were issued for the first four weeks.

This guidance provides answers to some of the most frequently asked questions relating to bus lanes and ANPR Enforcement covering the issue of PCNs and the appeals process. 

General bus lane information

How are bus lanes authorised?  

They are created by Traffic Regulation Orders using powers under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. A bus lane is defined in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 as a traffic lane reserved for buses (and authorised vehicles, pedal cycles, solo motorcycles and taxis where indicated by the signs). 

How are they enforced?  

Powers were granted for civil enforcement of traffic contraventions by approved local authorities in the Transport Act 2000. We are an approved local authority under The Bus Lane Contraventions (Approved Local Authorities) (England) Order 2005 (as amended) for the purposes of S.144 of the Transport Act 2000 (civil penalties for bus lane contraventions). 

The cameras and recording system have been approved under The Bus Lanes (Approved Devices) (England) Order 2005. 

What about penalties for contraventions? 

Section 144 of the of the Transport Act 2000 provides the necessary powers to enable the Secretary of State by regulation to make provision for the imposition of penalty charges in respect of bus lane contraventions. The penalty charge is £60 for a bus lane contravention. A discount of 50% applies – the discounted rate of £30 – if the penalty charge is paid by the end of the period of 14 days beginning with the date of service. 

PCNs are issued under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and S.144 of the Transport Act 2000. 

What does the Highway Code say?  

Rule 141 of the Highway Code gives the general rules for bus lanes. In short, only buses and other permitted vehicles may use bus lanes.

Why have them?  

The benefits of bus lanes are that they: 

  • increase bus service reliability and therefore improve bus passenger journey times
  • encourage use of public transport
  • provide a safer lane for cyclists. 

When are they in operation?  

In Chester the bus lanes are in operation 24 hours a day, including Bank Holidays. Road signs and markings will clearly indicate the start and end of bus lanes. 

Contraventions

What is a contravention?  

A bus lane contravention is a contravention of any provision of a traffic order relating to use of an area of road that is or forms part of a bus lane. A contravention normally occurs where a vehicle crosses the solid white boundary line between the bus lane and the remainder of the carriageway. 

Who can drive in a bus lane?  

Only buses (and, where indicated by signs, other permitted vehicles) can use bus lanes. The definition of a bus contained in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2016 is ‘a motor vehicle constructed or adapted to carry more than eight passengers (exclusive of the driver)’. Therefore, a bus must have a minimum of 9 seats including the driver. 

Permitted vehicles can vary from bus lane to bus lane, so you should check the signs at the start of the lane or bus only street before entering. Emergency vehicles (on an emergency call or operational manoeuvre) are exempt from these restrictions. 

Is it ever permitted to drive in a bus lane?

There are a small number of reasons when it is permitted to enter a bus lane. Among these are: 

  • when directed to do so by a police officer in uniform.
  • to avoid a collision or debris in the road. 

In all cases it is expected that the stay in the bus lane is as brief as possible. 

Can I park in a bus lane?  

Parking is not allowed, even if you have a blue badge. 

Penalty Charge Notice and appeals information

What happens if I am caught by the cameras driving in a bus lane or parked illegally? 

The registered keeper of the vehicle concerned can expect to receive a PCN. It will contain details of the alleged contravention, details of the vehicle and photographs that in our opinion establish the contravention. 

How much do I have to pay? 

Although the penalty charge is £60, payable by no later than 28 days beginning with the date of service of the PCN, we will accept a reduced sum of £30 within 14 days beginning with the date of service. Details of how to pay are shown on the front of the PCN. 

How can I pay?

  • by phone: automated payment line 0300 123 7029 (24 hours/7 days a week)  
  • using our online payment system
  • by post: Cheshire West and Chester Council, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE. Allow 2 working days for 1st class post and 5 working days for 2nd class post. 

Can I pay the charge in instalments?  

Payment of the entire applicable charge amount must be received in the stated time frame, to avoid the case status escalating or an increase in the charge balance. 

What is the date of service?  

Service of a notice sent by first class post is taken to have been effected on the second working day after the day of posting. Working days exclude Saturdays, Sundays, New Year’s Day, Christmas Day, Good Friday and any other day which is a Bank Holiday in England and Wales. 

I have previously driven frequently through this location without being penalised. Why have I now received a PCN?  

Bus Lane Enforcement commenced in August 2019. Prior to this, the enforcement of these restrictions was exclusively the responsibility of the police. 

Does it matter if I have previously never been to Chester city centre (I was unfamiliar with the area)?  

The bus lane restrictions are used nationwide, and the signs in place at appropriate locations on the highway to notify motorists of the prohibition appear in the Highway Code (with which all motorists should be familiar). Motorists are expected to comply with the restrictions irrespective of their level of familiarity with the local area. 

I have received a Fixed Penalty Notice from the police – Why? 

Bus lane offences are not decriminalised and, where civil enforcement of bus lanes applies in an area, contraventions of bus lane orders may continue to be enforced as a criminal offence by the Police. In the event that a Fixed Penalty Notice is issued by the Police for the same offence for which a PCN is produced, then we will cancel the PCN. 

What happens to all the money collected from bus lane penalties? 

The income from PCNs pays the cost of enforcement. These include the costs of employing the ANPR camera operators, the administrative staff involved in processing and collecting the penalties, maintenance of signs and lines and other associated costs. Any surplus remaining after deduction of costs has to go towards measures to improve public transport or other highway associated improvements. 

There must be a right of appeal against a PCN? 

Yes there is a right of appeal. Appeals are referred to in these cases as ‘Representations’.

The Bus Lane Contraventions (Penalty Charges, Adjudication and Enforcement) (England) Regulations 2005 (SI No 2757) sets out six grounds on which you make representations to the Council. These are: 

  • the alleged contravention did not occur.
  • the circumstances leading to the issue of the PCN are subject to criminal proceedings or a Fixed Penalty Notice has been issued. 
  • I was not the owner/keeper of the vehicle at the time of the alleged contravention.
  • I was the hirer of the vehicle at the time of the alleged contravention but I am not liable to pay the penalty charge.
  • I was the registered owner/keeper of the vehicle on the date of the alleged contravention but the vehicle was on hire to someone else who had signed a statement taking liability; kept by a motor trader; or was being used without my consent at the time of the alleged contravention.
  • The penalty exceeded the relevant amount. 

We may consider mitigating circumstances, although the following reasons will not normally be accepted:  

  • “I was going to turn left at the next junction”  
  • “there were no buses in the bus lane at the time”  
  • “I was only in the lane for a few seconds”  
  • “there is not enough room at the junction to make the left turn”  
  • “I was lost”  
  • “I didn’t see the signs”.  

How do I dispute a PCN by post and make a Representation?  

All representations against a PCN by post must be made in writing either by post or using our online appeals portal. Cheshire West and Chester Council, Parking Services, 4 Civic Way, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0BE 

You can make representations against the PCN but we may discount any representations received later than 28 days after the date of service. Unlike the case with parking contraventions there is no informal challenge against a PCN issued from ANPR evidence, as the ‘Notice to Owner’ is included in the PCN.  

We will send you a response. It will be either a ‘Notice of Acceptance of Representations’ or a ‘Notice of Rejection of Representations’. 

If we reject your representations, you have the right to appeal to an independent adjudication body called the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. The legal grounds for appeal are included under the earlier question ‘There must be a right of appeal against a PCN?’ (a to f). We will give you the online details with the ‘Notice of Rejection of Representations’ to enable you to appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. Again if the Traffic Penalty Tribunal rejects your appeal, the amount payable will normally be the full £60. Further information is available on the Traffic Penalty Tribunal website.

How long do I have to make a representation?  

You need to make your representation within 28 days beginning with the date of service. A representation made after 28 days may be disregarded. 

Can I pay the charge and still make representations to contest it? 

Payment should only be made if the matter is not disputed. Consideration will not be given to representations received in respect of a case which has been paid and closed. 

Further Information 

Further information about Civil Parking and Bus Lane Enforcement (including PCNs and NTOs) is available on the Patrol UK website.

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