Bus lane fines are set to rise by 17% this month despite warnings that the hike could be a breaking point for drivers already facing soaring costs.
Roads Minister Baroness Vere told the House of Lords that the fines across the country would be rising from £60 to £70 from the end of May to bring them in line with other punishments.
She announced “We are increasing bus lane penalties by £10 to align with contraventions of moving traffic and higher-level parking contraventions.”
The new rules apply to councils outwith London - where fines are already as much as £160 - and come into force from 31 May.
The Department for Transport said that the fines help to reduce congestion and “deter unsafe drivers” but AA president Edmund King warned they could be the breaking point for drivers who accidentally stray into bus lanes at the wrong time.
He pointed out that the new fines amounted to a days’ earnings for those on the £9.50 minimum wage and combined with the other soaring costs of living could prove too much for some drivers.
He said: “Bus lane fines are set to go up by more than twice the rate of already rampant UK inflation [7 per cent]. With finances for so many on a knife-edge, losing a day’s wages for mistakenly wandering into a bus lane could push many over the edge.”
Last year councils raked in more than £73 million in bus lane fines and around half of that was profit for the authorities.
Recent figures show that some individual councils made as much as £3.7m from fines issued to drivers who deliberately or accidentally broke the bus lane rules. Manchester made £3,701,458 in the financial year from 2020-21 from 116,862 fines. Several other authorities also made between £2m and £3m, with Bristol, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Birmingham among the authorities making the most from fines.
The announcement comes as drivers continue to struggle with near-record high fuel costs and increases in both insurance and tax bills.
It also comes hot on the heels of councils being allowed to apply for powers which will let them fine drivers for a broader range of traffic offences.
The RAC has warned that motorists could face an “avalanche” of unfair fines as councils are poised to be given responsibility for policing moving traffic offences. Authorities are currently able to apply for the powers, which are expected to come into force in June and allow them to issue fines for violations such as ignoring road signs or blocking yellow box junctions.