A NEW camera will be used to help to deter motorists from misusing bus lanes in County Durham.

From Monday 16 September, Durham County Council will take over responsibility for the enforcement of bus lane contraventions from Durham Constabulary.

And to help officers ensure bus lanes are being used appropriately, a portable enforcement camera will be deployed to sites across the county, starting with North Road in Durham City.

The council regularly receives complaints about contraventions and lack of enforcement of bus lanes, particularly North Road, from local councillors, residents, bus companies, taxi drivers and the Durham Licenced Taxi Association.

In July last year, CCTV coverage of the road was monitored and show 66 contraventions in a nine-hour period.

Durham Constabulary also receives complaints about contraventions of bus lanes and other locations where No Entry Except Buses signs are in place. However, demands on officers’ time reduces their availability to carry out enforcement. By assuming responsibility for enforcement, the council is freeing up police officers for their core duties.

The new camera will work through a system of automatic number plate recognition. For the first two weeks, those caught misusing the bus lanes will be sent a warning letter. From Monday 30 September, they will be issued with a £60 penalty charge notice, which will be reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. The money raised through the charges will be invested back into managing the road network in County Durham.

Dave Wafer, the council’s strategic traffic manager, said: “Bus lane restrictions are important and we want drivers to know that there are consequences to breaching them.

“When motorists use bus lanes as a shortcut or to bypass queuing traffic, it not only effects the reliability of the bus network, but it can impact on road safety and traffic flow, including cyclists and pedestrians.

“We hope the enforcement camera will make motorists think twice before misusing bus lanes in the future, and the public will support us in ensuring County Durham’s roads are safe for all.”

To find out more about bus lanes in County Durham, visit www.durham.gov.uk/ Bus-lanes-and-bus-stops

The move follows the introduction of cameras elsewhere in the region. Gateshead Council agreed a new civil bus lane enforcement policy in May 2016. But the switch-on for six lanes was delayed for more than two years.

Government data showed Newcastle City Council spent £698,000 on bus lane enforcement in 2017/18 - and made £763,000 in fines. This made the council a profit of £65,000