NEARLY 500 motorists a day have been caught driving in Glasgow's bus lanes.
So far at least £3.8 million in fines has been raised since a camera-backed enforcement regime was launched last year.
New figures show the city council has issued 126,831 penalty charge notices between April 23 and January 10 this year – equivalent to 482 a day.
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Motorists are liable to pay £60 if filmed at any of the 11 sites in the city centre and surrounding key routes where number-plate recognition cameras have been installed, though the fine is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
The high number of fines raised concern from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), which cautioned the council may be tempted to see the cameras as a revenue-raising tool.
However, they were welcomed by the Confederation for Passenger Transport (CPT), the industry body representing bus companies, which said the new enforcement regime had improved bus passengers' journeys.
Glasgow City Council said the actual profit from fines was expected to be £250,000 a year – in line with forecasts – after the cost of installing and operating the cameras, publicity and improvements to bus lanes was deducted.
Glasgow is one of three Scottish cities to take advantage of legislation passed in 2010 that enabled local authorities to take over enforcement of bus lane infringements from police.
Edinburgh launched its own enforcement regime at the same time and saw nearly 28,000 fines issued by the end of 2012 at three sites. However, a further 5836 fines had to be cancelled amid a public outcry and an official review that concluded one of the cameras, at Willowbrae Road, had been poorly located.
Bus-lane cameras in Aberdeen are due to become operational in the spring.
A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "Driving in bus lanes has always been illegal but was not strictly enforced in the past. The majority of drivers in Glasgow are law-abiding; however the number of offences shows the need for enforcement. All surplus revenue is invested in the transport infrastructure."
Neil Greig, director of policy at the IAM, said he was in favour of well-managed bus lane enforcement but questioned the level of fines issued in Glasgow.
"The big worry for any road safety or traffic management system is that it becomes a means of making money rather than keeping traffic moving or keeping the roads safe," he said.
Mr Greig questioned whether the difference in level of vocal complaints between drivers in Edinburgh and Glasgow was down to better implementation.
"I would have thought that by now we should be looking at the number of fines tailing off. If this many people are being caught in Glasgow, it suggests drivers don't know what's going on, they are not seeing the signs or not understanding them.
A spokesman for CPT said there needed to be a "shift in perception" among the public to ensure drivers complied with bus lane regulations.
"Bus lanes make buses more reliable, encourage modal shift, lower bus emissions and fuel costs and enable operators to run more services with the same number of vehicles. The social and economic benefits are un-deniable," he said.
"Drivers are generally careful to avoid double yellow lines when they park, even when the reason for the parking restrictions aren't immediately clear. The same care should be taken to comply with bus lane regulations."