The rise in bus lane fines in recent years has been significant and since the introduction of the Traffic Management Act in 2004, councils outside of London have begun enforcing penalty charge notices. Before that the police took care of it which meant it was harder to catch people out and less notices were issued. By 2014, 10 years after the introduction of the Traffic Management Act, over 1 million bus lane fines have been issued, raising around £30 million in revenue for local councils.
Cities such as Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds and our own city Newcastle have been hit the hardest with many blaming poorly located signs or confusing road layouts. If you’ve been caught out by a bus lane we’ve got some tips and advice on how you can appeal.
What happens when I’ve been caught?
When you are caught driving in a bus lane, the council will issue you a Penalty Charge Notice via post to the address of the registered keeper of the car. Many people don’t realise they have driven in a bus lane until they receive the brown envelope in the post which will give details of the alleged contravention, details of the vehicle and photographs to show it occurred.
The standard penalty charge for driving in a bus lane is £60 outside of London or if you live inside London its £130. If you pay your penalty charge within two weeks, your fine will be reduced (£30 and £65 respectively).
How can I appeal a bus lane fine?
Not many drivers are aware that you can appeal a penalty charge notice but if you have certain grounds for doing so, it is possible. There are six grounds on which you can appeal a bus lane fine under the Bus Lane Contraventions 2005. They are:
1) The contravention did not occur
This ground will only be valid if the signs or road markings were incorrect, the vehicle was permitted to be in the bus lane at the time of the alleged contravention or the vehicle was not in the bus lane at all.
2) The penalty charge notice exceeded the relevant amount
If the council asked for more than was permitted under the relevant regulation
3) The circumstances leading to the issue of the penalty charge notice are subject to criminal proceedings or a fixed penalty notice has been issued
If the police are already taking action or there has been a fixed penalty notice issued already, you may be able to appeal a bus lane fine on this ground
4) The driver was not the owner or the registered keeper of the vehicle at the time of the alleged contravention
If you didn’t own the vehicle at the time of the alleged contravention because you either bought it after or sold it before the alleged contravention you may be able to successfully appeal against your penalty charge notice.
5) The driver was not the hirer of the vehicle at the time of the alleged contravention OR the driver was the registered owner or keeper of the vehicle but at the time the vehicle was on hire to someone else
If the owner of the vehicle is a hire firm and at the time of the alleged contravention it was on hire to someone – the hirer either has to have signed a statement of liability or have an agreement which makes the hirer not liable for any penalty charge notices.
If the vehicle was taken without the owner’s consent, the ground does not usually apply to cars that were taken that were in the care of a garage or a vehicle that was taken by a family member of friend. If possible, you should always supply a crime reference number that is provided by the police to support your appeal.
If the council reject your appeal you can take your case to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal if you are outside of London (London Tribunals if you live in London), but only after you have you have gone through the challenge process of the authority that issued the penalty charge notice. You will be given a formal Notice of Rejection of Representatives which will then give you 28 days to pay the fine or appeal to an independent tribunal. If you appeal is successful the fine will be cancelled and you won’t be required to pay the PCN. You can only appeal to an independent adjudicator after you have received a Notice of Rejection of Representatives.
Appealing to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal
The Traffic Penalty Tribunal has three types of decision making – a postal decision(without a hearing), a telephone hearing or a face to face hearing.
Postal Decision – without a hearing
You and the authority who issued the penalty charge notice will send your appeal and any evidence to be considered by the adjudicator. You will also have the opportunity to view the authorities’ evidence and add some comments. All of the evidence will be considered and you will be sent the decision.
If you choose a telephone hearing you will be given the opportunity to speak to the adjudicator and present your case over the telephone. The call usually lasts around 15 minutes and is relatively informal. You will need to remember to send your appeal and evidence in advance.
Face to face hearing
In some cases it may be necessary to attend a face to face hearing which will usually last around 15 minutes and will involve you, the adjudicator and the enforcing authority. You can select from a list of venues that you are provided or an address closest to you will be selected. Similar to a telephone hearing, you will still need to send your appeal and evidence in advance.