‘Big Brother’ plan to patrol Portsmouth’s public transport routes

PROTECTED The bus lane on London Road, Hilsea will be one of the routes watched.
PROTECTED The bus lane on London Road, Hilsea will be one of the routes watched.
M27. Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A SPY patrol car could be used to crack down on motorists who use bus lanes illegally.

Portsmouth City Council’s traffic team has revealed it may send officers out in a compact Smart car fitted with a camera to stop private vehicles using parts of the road set aside for public transport.

But motorist groups have said the scheme is ‘like Big Brother’ spying on road users.

The council’s leader for transport Jason Fazackarley said: ‘We want to make sure we know who’s breaking traffic rules and we’re considering the Smart car because it may be cheaper than the alternatives we’re looking at.

‘These are fixed or semi-permanent cameras on every lane in the city.’

The traffic team said it did not know how much it would cost to install cameras across the city, but confirmed buying one Smart car at around £8,000 would most likely be the cheaper option.

The car would be marked as a council vehicle and travel the city up to seven days a week, at all times of day.

Cllr Fazackarley said: ‘We want to get cars away from the bus lanes because it can cause problems for pedestrians outside schools, and the lanes are there to help traffic flow through the city, so their misuse can cause congestion and traffic jams.’

But John Franklin, from the RAC’s motor strategy team, said: ‘We understand why councils want to do this. It’s important motorists don’t break the law. But it feels like a Big Brother measure.’

The council will make a decision on the matter during the summer, but whether it chooses a Smart car or fixed traffic cameras, it has signalled its intention to take over regulation of the lanes from police.

At present, those who break the rules can be fined up to £120 by police.

But under the new scheme, council officers would issue Penalty Charge Notices, fining drivers £60, or £30 if they pay within a set period.

The council’s assistant head of transport Pam Turton said: ‘Our officers would issue PCNs if they saw people using the lanes.

‘We’re at an early stage and can’t estimate how much the alternative parts of the scheme, fixed or mobile cameras or the car, might cost.

‘But we’re looking at all options, and then we’ll go to the council to ask their approval for a budget.’

An AA spokesman said: ‘We don’t oppose this. People shouldn’t use bus lanes in general. It’s better to have people, who can make those judgements, than fixed cameras, which can’t.’