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Evidence is needed on impact of new bus gate

Whether for parking offences, speeding, or ignoring bus lanes, no motorist likes being fined.

Death and taxes are touted as the only certainties in life, but it is the avoidability of traffic fines that makes them so maddening.

So it is no surprise that Glasgow's new bus gate on the way in to George Square is unpopular with the nearly 28,000 drivers who have fallen foul of it so far.

But others are also objecting. Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is asking business leaders in the city centre, particularly Glasgow's Merchant City, for their experience of the new system.

The George Square bus gate is designed to encourage use of the area by pedestrians and cyclists, and those using public transport. But some businesses already feel they are being affected by drivers choosing not to dine or shop in the city centre, but in out-of-town shopping malls where access is easier and parking is free.

Such arguments are not new. Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen all have camera-enforced bus lanes, although Glasgow currently has as many as the two other cities combined.

They are usually justified on the basis that cutting car traffic makes city centres safer and more attractive for pedestrians, and frees up public transport, making it more efficient and popular.

The George Square bus gate has led to £1,671,060 in fines being issued, making it more lucrative than all of Glasgow's other 15 bus lane cameras. Critics say bus lanes and gates are driven by such revenue.

While the number of fines issued is generally on a downward trend in all three cities, cynics suggest local authorities regularly bring in new locations just to keep fine income high.

Fines are indeed a source of income for councils, although there is a considerable cost to install cameras and run them. However, the justifications for using them do make sense, as long as there are viable public transport options available.

In Glasgow the quality of the bus fleet has improved, but fares remain high and in the deregulated marketplace, options for travellers remain confusing. However, pedestrian use of George Square was high during the Commonwealth Games in particular.

It could well be that the bus gate has delivered a net increase of people into this area of the city, while cutting congestion.

Perhaps visitors coming by bike, foot or public transport have more than offset any loss of traffic from deterred car-users.

We could do with proper evidence from both proponents and opponents of bus lanes. We need to know whether congestion has gone down and use of public transport genuinely been encouraged.

In Glasgow, the council says a fall in the number of fines since the controversial lane was introduced shows that it is working, and drivers have identified other routes they can use. If business leaders feel trade truly has been affected, then they need to prove it.

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Local government

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