BUSINESS leaders have reacted with fury as it was revealed that fines for motorists driving through a new bus gate have topped £1.5 million.
A number of bosses have contacted Glasgow Chamber of Commerce to raise their concerns about the traffic measure leading into George Square. As a result, the business body has contacted its 1,800 member organisations to canvass their views.
The city council introduced a bus gate at Nelson Mandela Place on June 30 in a bid to cut the volume of traffic moving through the city and reduce congestion. The gate operates from 7am until 7pm, seven days a week, with cameras in place to photograph drivers breaking the rules.
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Earlier this month, it emerged that more than 10,000 drivers had been caught in the first 15 days the CCTV was in operation.
Latest figures show that number has now increased to 27,851.
Drivers are fined £60, meaning the maximum penalties issued so far come to £1,671,060.
However the majority of drivers pay within two weeks, meaning the fine is halved to £30.
The letter from the Chamber of Commerce states: "Transportation is key to the running of businesses in Glasgow city centre, therefore we want you, our members, to tell us what you think of the enforcement of the bus gate."
It asks if the traffic measure has affected their business, if the signs are clear and whether they have been fined.
One of the first people to respond was Ryan James, chairman of Glasgow Restaurant Association. He said: "The bus gate takes away one of the major arterial routes into the Merchant City. There is now no way of getting there other than some circuitous route, which will put people with cars off going there for entertainment and dining.
"The bus gate sends out an environmental message but it is forcing people out of the city centre. It is another reason to visit Braehead and Silverburn, where you can park for free and the shops are under cover."
Donald Macleod is managing director of Holdfast Entertainment, which owns the Garage, Cathouse and Tunnel nightclubs.
He said: "The bus gate is an absolute disgrace. It may have been understandable if they put it in for the Commonwealth Games but the fact it is continuing is absolutely appalling.
"I fail to see what good it has done for the city other than rake in a barrow load of cash for the council by fleecing the motorist."
Glasgow Chamber of Commerce deputy chief executive Richard Muir said: "We have called for some time for the development of a co-ordinated City Centre transport strategy that takes into account all user groups, and we are engaging with members to get their views on the proposals as they're developed. We are aware a number of members are unhappy and have concerns about the Nelson Mandela Place bus gate."
A council spokesman said the first full week of operation of the bus gate between July 5 and July 11 saw 4,759 fixed-penalty notices issued. Between August 15 and August 22, a total of 3,859 fines were issued - a drop of 900 tickets.
He added: "It's very encouraging that the number of drivers illegally driving through the bus gate has dramatically fallen since the gate went live.
"The bus gate was introduced to reduce through traffic in and around Queen Street Station and provide a pedestrian gateway to George Square with the added benefit of improving the environment both for pedestrians and cyclists and making crossing this area more user friendly.
"It also delivers benefits for public transport users."