Councillors' calls to scrap 'cash cow' bus lane in Hartfield Road
A “cash cow” bus lane brought into Wimbledon town centre last year has yielded nearly seven times more income for the council than expected, councillors have argued in a bid to have it removed.
Merton’s opposition Conservative group – which paraded a pantomime cow through the town centre on Saturday morning – have registered a motion to scrap the bus lane in Hartfield Road.
The motion, to be delivered at tonight’s full council meeting at the Civic Centre, Morden, is the first time Conservatives have formally called for the bus lane’s removal.
When it was introduced in November 2011, the council estimated its annual income would be £110,000, but a Freedom of Information request from the Wimbledon Guardian found that, within 10 weeks, the total fines received was £148,008.
After five months, the bus lane had generated more than £300,000 after 5,600 penalty charge notices were issued, but no evidence has been given to show that bus journey times through the town centre have improved.
Councillor Richard Hilton, Conservative spokesman for environment and regeneration, said: “After more than 5,700 tickets issued, the true reason for introducing the bus lane has been exposed.
“Yet another scheme by the Labour council to milk our residents for every penny while they sit on £43m of unspent cash reserves.
“It’s done very little to ease congestion, or speed up bus journey times, but a great deal for the council’s coffers.”
Despite the controversy surrounding the bus land before it was introduced, many motorists have complained, some of whom were fined multiple times before they had realised they had committed a traffic offence.
When questioned by this newspaper about whether enough was done by the council to warn people there was now a bus lane in Hartfield Road during rush hours, the director who oversees traffic enforcement said they had.
Chris Lee, director of environement and regeneration, said: “I know it created a lot of interest. It is not as if we introduced it in the middle of the night.
"We put notices of the bus lane well in advance. People say we only painted it red weeks after, but that was the process we had to adhere to.
“In terms of signs, what we can put on pavements is very heavily prescribed. We do not want to clutter up our streets.
"We are always being criticised for how there are too many signs on the highway.
“We don’t always get it right but we get it right more than we get it wrong.”
This week, the council's cabinet member for performance and implementation, Councillor Mark Betteridge said: "The bus lane was reintroduced to assist in reducing congestion by helping the flow of buses.
It also helps improve journey times and provides a safer cycle facility along Hartfield Road."