A controversial new 20mph zone in Belfast city centre may end up being a mere “paper exercise” because the PSNI do not have the resources to police it.
That is the claim from unionist Policing Board member Ross Hussey, after the PSNI said that it has no intention at present of using speed cameras to catch motorists in the zone.
The new speed limit covers a tightly-defined area inside the city centre, mainly around City Hall and the Cathedral Quarter (THE ZONE FALLS WITHIN THE RED LINE ON THIS MAP).
It has been in force since Sunday.
The Department for Regional Development has said the limit has been introduced for safety reasons – however, this rationale has been widely questioned, with many pointing to a relatively low rate of serious collisions in the city centre where the speed limit used to be an essentially uniform 30mph.
When asked about enforcement plans for the new zone, the PSNI told the News Letter it would be “monitoring traffic” following the introduction of the zone.
It added: “There are currently no plans to introduce speed cameras or the mobile Northern Ireland Road Safety Partnership vehicles, as they are used on routes where there is a proven history of collisions resulting in death or serious injury and where there is clear evidence of speeding.”
Ross Hussey, UUP MLA for West Tyrone, said: “How they would intend to police it is beyond me.”
He said an alternative to cameras would be a PSNI officer standing by the roadside with a “ray gun” for tracking passing vehicles.
“Obviously with the manpower issue at the moment, they don’t have the ability to enforce it,” he said.
“It could be just a paper exercise at the moment.
“I can’t see the police with their current budgets and manpower levels being able to police this at all. It just seems to be a nonsense.”
He added: “It’s a rule that’s probably going to be disregarded by quite a few people, with little fear of being prosecuted.”
Asked if the matter of enforcing the 20mph restrictions is likely to come up in Thursday’s Policing Board meeting, he replied that while it may be mentioned, “I don’t see it as being a priority”.
In addition to stating that it is not aiming to bring cameras into force, the PSNI also said: “All right-thinking and law-abiding motorists will realise that speed restrictions are not there to inconvenience them but to make our roads safer for everyone.
“The responsibility for making the roads a safer place is one that we all share and one that we can all do something about – by slowing down, staying within the speed limits and driving at a speed appropriate for the conditions.”
There are cameras operating in the city centre at present, and other parts of Belfast, but these were introduced last year for catching motorists who use the red bus lanes.
The DRD said this is their only purpose; they are not used to catch speeding motorists.
As reported last month, the bus lane cameras have resulted in more than 30,000 fines being issued from June 22, 2015 (when the scheme began) until January 12.
Previously on this story: Union representative claims scheme risks making buses late.