The AA has warned Northern Ireland politicians not to use new bus lane cameras in Belfast “to harvest fines from motorists on an industrial scale”.
AA spokesman Luke Bosdet was speaking after it was revealed that six static cameras and a mobile detection unit will monitor drivers and issue £90 fines to motorists who drive in bus lanes in the city.
Ciaran de Burca, director of transport projects at the Department of Regional Development (DRD), said: “This is not anti-motorist. What we are trying to do is make life safer and better for everybody.”
But the AA’s Mr Bosdet was sceptical.
“In Glasgow these bus lane cameras are making huge amounts of money,” he said.
“In March it was reported that one bus lane in Glasgow had earned £3m in six months from 50,000 drivers.
“Scotland as a whole earned £10m in the same period, coming from 34 cameras across three cities.
The AA described it as “extraordinary and outrageous”.
“We hope politicians in Northern Ireland will have a bit more spine and just issue warning letters in the first three to six months, as a grace period.
“The aim is to help buses run efficiently with less cars in the bus lanes but some UK authorities see enforcement of bus lane fines as a cash cow and are harvesting fines on an industrial scale.”
“Some people inevitably break rules because the bus lanes cross key access roads such as for schools or hospitals and they have no option. We would hope a grace period would rectify this.
“The experiment in Scotland would be our biggest fear.
“I would hope the politicians in Northern Ireland would show more spine than in Scotland where they are just raking in the money.
“Motorists are not lemmings. They do not keep driving themselves into bus lanes and get fined £60 a time for the fun of it.
“If particular cameras are harvesting excessive amounts of money, then the reasons need to be investigated,” he added.
But former Belfast mayor Jim Rodgers said he warmly welcomed the cameras.
“There are an increasing number of motorists driving in the bus lanes and getting away with it scot-free,” he said.
The cameras will come into operation next month, starting with a three-week period of grace where offenders will receive a written warning.
After June 21, a fixed penalty notice will be handed out.
The cameras will be situated at Castle Street, Donegall Square East, Great Victoria Street and East Bridge Street.
The mobile detection vehicle will cover a 50-kilometre area of greater Belfast.
Mr de Burca added: “We have no intention of getting rid of the bus lanes any time soon.”