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More than 2,000 fined for crossing Park Way bridge

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Council denies bus lane camera in Newbury is a money spinner and says warning signs to motorists are adequate

MORE than 2,000 drivers have been fined in under three months for illegally driving over the Park Way bridge in Newbury.

The figures were released by West Berkshire Council to the Newbury Weekly News after this newspaper was approached by several frustrated local drivers who claimed that they had unjustly been fined for violating the traffic order, because the warning signs were unclear and placed too high up to be seen easily.

West Berkshire Council maintains, however, that the warning signs to motorists crossing the bridge are appropriate and do not need to be changed.

Of the 2,274 fines issued, some affected drivers were caught several times between November 4 and January 22 by a new bus lane camera on Park Way bridge, and many were outraged, saying the volume of tickets is an indication that the traffic signs at the new road layout are not clear.

At a rate of £60 per fine - reduced to £30 if it is paid within 14 days - the council stands to have received up to £136,440 from the fines issued since the bridge reopened to traffic in November, although the council said it was unable to disclose what the exact revenue collected from the fines was as the NWN went to press yesterday (Wednesday).

Park Way bridge recently changed from a one way road where motorists could legally cross, to a two-way, traffic light controlled road open only to buses, taxis and bicycles.

The camera on the bridge is currently catching drivers at a rate of nearly 30 motorists per day.

Newbury resident Barrie Singleton, aged 74, of River Walk was fined on January 16.

He said: “There are no red ‘no entry' signs anywhere, only blue signs, and according to The Highway Code blue circles [such as the ones on the bridge] normally give positive instruction. Signs with red circles are mostly prohibitive.

“One of the signs is obscured by trees and another only visible once you have nearly passed it.”

The West Berkshire councillor responsible for highways, David Betts (Con, Purley on Thames) said the drivers had only themselves to blame.

“Some people just drive about with their eyes shut,” he said.

“It is a very high number of people getting caught, but there are many drivers who just do not read the signs and who ‘try it on', thinking they will get away with it.”

He denied that the camera was installed to catch people as a money spinner for the council: “The reasons for the changes in traffic flow on the bridge are very clear, it is part of the town centre traffic reorganisation scheme to get buses out of the pedestrian part of town, but if people are stupid enough to ignore the signs and we make money, that is a bonus.”

He added that there were no current plans to change the signage: “My officers assure me that the signs there are adequate.”

One Newbury resident, 71-year-old Ann Dixon, of Andover Road, said she has kept a clean driving record for more than 40 years, only to be fined twice by the camera on Park Way bridge.

She told the NWN she was appalled by Mr Betts' “arrogant” comments and said: “I am just not that sort of person. I felt like a criminal when I received the first ticket. I cried and I called my son. To think that I would ignore the signs if I had seen them is absurd.”

The council took 20 days before sending out her ticket, so she contravened again before realising her mistake.

“The council told me some people were fined seven times,” she added.

Jan Stewart, of Thatcham, said her 63-year-old husband and 21-year-old twin daughters had all been fined for driving over the bridge.

“When the tickets for my daughters came through the door, I thought it was just their bad driving,” she said. "But when my husband, who has never had a ticket, got caught I knew something was wrong.”

West Berkshire's Liberal Democrat group leader, Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West), said: “I think people should be made aware of the changes before you start fining them, but there is currently a culture of lets fine them first and get their money. We should not have a council whose first objective is to punish people.”

West Berkshire Council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said: “Regarding signage, we believe it is certainly adequate. The new scheme has also been widely publicised so it is difficult to see what else could have been done. There are restrictions under the Traffic Management Act on what signage can be installed, but within those rules we still believe the signage is very clear.”

Mr Ulyatt said all the fines accrued go to the district council and will help balance its service budget.

What do you think about the traffic signs either side of Park Way bridge? Have your say on our online forum.

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