The boom in bus lane fines: how to appeal a ticket or PCN

Bus lane fines are drivers' latest menace

One bus lane camera in south London has so far raised more than £6m in fines (Picture © iStock)

First it was officious parking wardens, then it was hidden speed cameras; now comes a new menace to motorists: bus-lane ‘entrapment’.

Underhand tactics are being blamed for a massive rise in fines handed out to drivers who are caught straying into a bus lane. Five years ago, approximately 321,000 bus lane fines or ‘infringement tickets’ were issued. But last year that figure had climbed to over one million, raising around £30million in revenue for cash-strapped councils.

Critics are pointing the finger of blame at poorly located signs and confusing road layouts. In London, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol, which top the list for complaints from motorists, the most common problem is when a driver wants to turn left and inadvertently merges into or crosses a bus lane before they are allowed to.

The typical penalty for driving in a bus lane is £130 in London and £70 outside the capital. Drivers who pay promptly can have their fine reduced by half.

Many won’t know they’ve made a mistake until a brown paper envelope containing a penalty notice is dropped through their letterbox. Becky Barrow, a writer for The Sunday Times and mother of three children, suffered exactly that fate during the school run. She moved to the left slightly too early in preparation to turn left, near the Westfield shopping centre in West London.

After returning to the scene of her ‘crime’, Barrow found that the bus lane was the same colour as the rest of the road, and the thick white dividing line separating buses from other traffic stopped before arrows tell drivers they may merge left.

The Daily Mail reports that in London’s borough of Lambeth, one camera positioned at a junction has generated more than £6m in fines to date, while in Glasgow another camera has effectively handed out more than £3m worth of penalties.

Unlike money raised from speeding fines, which is handed to the Treasury, revenue from bus lane fines and parking tickets is kept by councils. Ten years ago, bus lane enforcement would have been carried out by the police on location. Today it’s overseen by video camera operators sat in a windowless control room, or in some cases older-style photographic cameras capture the evidence.

How to appeal a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for driving in a bus lane

Not many drivers realise that it is possible to appeal against a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) for driving in a bus lane.

Motorists must take up the matter with the authority that issued the ticket in the first place, within the specified time limit – typically 28 days. If your appeal is unsuccessful you can turn to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. This is an independent adjudicator with the authority to cancel a PCN.

Given that the most common complaint among drivers is that they moved to the left slightly too early in order to turn left, the most significant ground for appealing a bus lane fine is that drivers are permitted 20 metres of grace – approximately five car lengths.

So if the supplied photographic and (in some cases) video evidence does not show the car travelling more than 20 metres in the bus lane, there are good grounds for an adjudicator to throw out the PCN.

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38 comments on “The boom in bus lane fines: how to appeal a ticket or PCN

  1. Rob King December 12, 2015 11:58 am

    Cardiff Bus Lanes PCN Appeals.
    The use of bi-lingual traffic signs and road marking is not permissible for the purpose of statutory enforcement of moving traffic offences in bus lanes under the Traffic Management Act 2004. Only those signs described in the Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 3 and Chapter 5 can be used to create a legally enforceable bus lane. The signs must be placed at all the locations prescribed in the Traffic Signs Manual.

    This has not yet been tested at Appeal but is almost certainly correct.

  2. Paul Wilkinson June 1, 2016 9:23 am

    Appealed today 1-6-16 two photos sent showing me driving for less than 3 meters in a bus lane,
    Appealed on the grounds of not showing more than 20 meters, lets see what happens.

    • Gary June 23, 2016 4:24 pm

      Hi Paul
      How did your appeal go? I hope you were successful. I received a PCN recently for travelling in a BL for 10 metres approx at tjhe end of a bus lane. I appealed to Merton who kicked it out. Now I’m considering whether it is worth risking £130 to appeal to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal. Any thoughts. Kind regards GEB

      • Clayton June 29, 2016 1:05 am

        Hey Gary, I am on the same boat. Merton as well. I am resident of this council. The worst I have ever lived in London. Man I hate Merton council. They refused it. Insane!! Half of my car went on the BL for about 4 meters and 2 secs (as per their evidence) as I was going to turn left. I am gonna take the risk and take this to the end. Hopefully I will not have to pay the £130.00. Good Luck!!

        • Gary July 4, 2016 5:19 pm

          Hi Clayton
          As I didn’t get any replies to my comment I decided with regret to pay the £65 fine. Today my fine would have increased to £130 and it was a risk I didn’t want to take. However, I do wish you well with your appeal and hope you succeed. Good luck. Gary

          • Chris December 3, 2016 10:24 am

            Hi Clayton,
            I too got a bus lane ticket in Merton in exactly the same circumstances as yours – half a car for about 4 metres. How did you get on with your appeal? I’m considering mine now, but common sense says it’s ridiculous!
            Cheers,

        • Mia July 29, 2016 11:39 am

          I too got a BL ticket from Merton for being in bus lane less than 10m to get in the left hand lane. Appealed to Merton and they rejected it as always. Forgot to pay at discounted rate so it’s now £130. Waiting for the form to come through so I can formally challenge it… Will see what happens

          • Jarek November 8, 2016 2:45 pm

            Mia, did you challenge the PCN? How did it go?

          • Chris Barnes December 3, 2016 10:25 am

            Do you have any news on your appeal Mia? I really want to at least hear from someone there is common sense in the system and appeals are actually possible

          • Amelia February 17, 2017 12:38 am

            Wow – this website was apparently written for the disgruntled residents of Merton. I just got one there too. Same thing – entered the bus lane slightly too early for a left hand turn. I have appealed but based on the replies here it seems like I will have to pay anyway. Has anyone had any successful appeals with them?

      • Clara Collict February 2, 2017 9:55 pm

        I wouldn’t, 20m is only guideline. I lost my appeal because they said the law was that you don’t cross the line into a bus lane and they were choosing not to adhere to the guidelines. It was with Lambeth though

        • Success April 23, 2017 10:31 am

          Hi Clara and others,

          Well I also been driving on bus lane for about 3 meters (4 seconds) in Fullman, also appealed to council and they of course rejected, however I took case to London Tribunals and I won the case.

          They (council) also said to me that ‘the law was that you don’t cross the line into a bus lane and 20m is only guideline’ which is totally false. Its misleading wording to make you feel guilty and pay. You can actually search online for this.

          What I would say is they will usually reject anything from you and your best bet is take your case to London Tribunals and of course you can search online how to deal with this.

  3. Whistleblower August 15, 2016 10:14 pm

    Cardiff is a nightmare in this regard. This has got to be a money making exercise out of people being human trying to follow the rules. This is not about road safety and it is not about keeping the bus lanes clear either. This is about catching you out on a technicality with the expectation that you will just pay without challenge. It doesn’t take into account real life when there are so many other things we have to consider, like navigating, checking our speed, getting to our meeting or arrangement on time, keeping our kids in order when they are bleating, being considerate to the traffic and other road users, not knowing the area or even daring to make a mistake by being over cautious when turning left!! And then what about the wider things that could be happening in your life like recent bereavements or going through a redundancy consultation process?! Clearly, with all the things that could be going on we should try harder and be more careful. Why can’t we? Turn it in on yourself and go into a depression for a bit for the wrong you have done and think about what you have learned today. You know what, I disagree and I am prepared to make a stand. This is jobs worth gone mad and as such is unfair; worse actually, its an officious rip off. Driving is no longer a pleasure with PCN cameras and speed guns and traps, making big brother proud. I think they should repaint the bus lanes to be more considerate to the general motorist and I think they should turn the cameras off.

  4. ray allie September 1, 2016 11:38 am

    What I don’t understand is how can Merton Council throw it out if Green Flags facts are correct? Are Green Flag correct in what they say about the 20m grace?

  5. michael September 2, 2016 4:07 pm

    i was forced to turn right into a bus lane as my intended direction was closed due to construction i would have redirected but before i knew it i was in a one way and itwas not safe to u turn. signage was inadequate on approach. Is this a valid reason to appeal?

  6. Myles September 6, 2016 6:02 pm

    There is no actual 20metre rule, it is a guidance only apparently that is part of the guidelines of some councils only!

  7. Myles September 21, 2016 6:57 pm

    There isn’t any actual 20 metre rule…..an ombudsman mentioned it once (i cant find the article any more) and everyone went with it!

  8. Jarek November 8, 2016 2:47 pm

    Hi guys. I received four PCN’s (pretty much consecutive days) from Merton. Can anyone advise if I have any chances appelaing it tochange it into one continuous contravention? Merton of course disregarded my request.

    • Chris Barnes December 3, 2016 10:37 am

      Yes they should make it 1 contravention as per the link above:
      5-day rule: The customer has been issued with a 2nd PCN before they have had the
      opportunity to receive the 1st PCN . The 1st PCN received is valid, all subsequent PCN’s (issued before the 1st one has been received) are to be cancelled.

  9. Mrs S Devlin November 10, 2016 2:34 pm

    Hi my son has just received a PCN bus lane ticket. I viewed the Havering web site too see only the same picture that was sent on the PCN which shows the passenger side wheels on the thick white line but nothing else, he is two car lengths from being able to pull over to the left at end of bus lane. He clearly in these pictures is not inside the bus lane apart from being on white line at a point where a turning on the driverside of the road is and traffice turning out tends to make you steer slightly left hence being on the white line.
    Would any other evidence be available and are they allowed to withhold anything before he challenges this.

  10. Hannah Thomas November 14, 2016 11:01 am

    Hi Paul Williamson, just wondered if you appealed based on the 20 metre grace and, if so, whether you were successful. My husband has received 2 PCNs from Merton Council this month for driving in the bus lane adjacent to the bus stop, so he could turn left?

    • Jaroslaw Czernek December 19, 2016 6:22 pm

      Hi Hannah. Regarding Merton, they state in their correspondence that there is no 20 metre rule. All my PCN appeals have been rejected by Merton. All they do is send a generic response.

  11. Chandan November 16, 2016 8:03 pm

    Hi, Wondering what happens when one enters a bus lane because the online sign was hidden by the bus moving in front of the car. Bust just in front is like a red wall in front of you. once I realised that I was in a bus ONLY lane, i looked to get out but had no other option but to keep moving, until I got a place to exit. Just had no option. Layout around o2 arena is a nightmare to say the least. Some moron designed it. It was raining cats and dogs today, and I was following a bus and took the most logical right turn only to find myself in the bus lane.. right in the middle of it… It sucks to drive in London, really.

  12. Peter November 17, 2016 1:27 pm

    Hi I’ve just had two £65 fines of harrow council for going through a bus lane at Four o’clock in the morning.l had just finished a 10 hour shift at Headstone Road on the Railway I didn’t see know signs warning me and to be fear all I was interested in was getting back to Birmingham to bed its a disgrace I understand during peak times but 4 o’clock in the morning the roads are empty Life drives you mad sometimes all was doing was going to work.

  13. Hall December 2, 2016 12:58 pm

    Hi
    Should the value of the fine be displayed?

  14. Cheryl January 5, 2017 12:20 pm

    Beware that when you contest and they decide you are wrong they say they send you a letter to let you know and I never received it. It then made me go over the time allowed and they doubled the fine! Arses! Ring every week to see how far the case is going!!!

  15. Robert January 14, 2017 12:44 pm

    I need help with this one. I got 3 in the space of two days, my wife was rushed into Edinburgh Royal Infirmary by Ambulance for an emergency operation and i had never been to that hospital or area before as i stay about an hour away.
    Anyway i couldnt get parked as the carpark was full everyday so i had to drive down a road and turn to try and get parked again. It turns out the road is a bus lane which i had no idea of and obviously i was in a state of panic with the 3 kids and their mum in hospital.
    Anyway a week later i have 3 bus lane fines, 2 on the same day and 1 a day later. When i googled it obviously im not the only one as that camera is responsible for over a quarter of all Edinburgh City Council fines which i find stagering. Do i have any ground for appeal or even paying one as it was an error but to get landed with 3 is unjust imo.

    • Max January 26, 2017 11:03 am

      I also hot caught at the Royal hospital. Two bus lane fines 12 seconds apart, i realised turned around and got snapped again

  16. Mike January 27, 2017 12:37 pm

    I just appealed one with Reading council where the road layout is very confusing, and the signage isn’t clear until you are right upon the lane with no safe means to adjust. I entered the lane and turned around when safe to do so (2 way street), but received a fine just this morning. It’s scandalous, and a revenue generation exercise. Fortunately I have lots of contacts in the legal industry so this one is going all the way…. time to make a stand.

  17. ChoccyWoccy January 27, 2017 8:44 pm

    I received a pcn for driving in a bus lane for 5 seconds coming up to a pedestrian crossing and turning left into upper Marsh after the crossing on Westminster Bridge Road.

    I appealed using the TFL guidelines which states if a person travels less than 20m in a bus lane the appeal can be excepted.

    I lost the appeal on the grounds these are guidelines and not the law. The law states you should not cross the thick white lines.

    Waste of time appealing but at least they doubled their money!!!!

  18. Noreen Hussain January 31, 2017 10:01 am

    Hi, I received a bus lane PCN while I was away on holiday with my family. I have all the evidence showing my passport stamped and the tickets which I submitted and Bradford Council rejected it. I’ve asked family members who had access to the house while we were away if anybody drove my car and they all denied it. Am I still liable for the fine as someone took my car without my consent. It feels am having to pay a fine for an offence I didn’t commit. I want to appeal to the adjudicator but would like to know if I have any grounds for appeal first.
    Many thanks

  19. Lee February 2, 2017 11:51 am

    Does a Council have to have a sign indicating that enforcement cameras are in operation in order for a PCN to be valid?

  20. John Roberts March 29, 2017 12:43 pm

    I have got a letter for driving in a bus lane on 10/02/2017 but the letter was sated 02/03/2017. I was exiting the road so I slightly went into the bus lane to exit. I did exit under mitigating circumstances so I am appealing as my option at the time was either park in the bus lane or fine some where else.

    this happen in Merton as well but will keep everyone update with the progress of my appeal.

  21. Simon Rhodes May 16, 2017 9:58 pm

    I was looking for advice and found this site. I entered a bus lane for 10 metres (2 seconds on the photos) on Bank Holiday Monday. There were no buses in any photo and one other car on the road, but that didn’t stop….yes……MERTON COUNCIL!!!

    I’m going to appeal and complain to my MP & Councillor through http://www.writetothem.com

    • Simon Rhodes May 17, 2017 2:55 pm

      Interesting….I complained to my elected Councillor and had this reply.

      Dear Simon,
      We councillors totally agree with the ‘unfairness’ points you raise in your e mail. We believe the bus lane is primarily about raising money from motorists and it was a previous pledge of the Conservatives to remove it.
      However it is just one example of how this Labour council seeks to raise extra money in Wimbledon.
      I am copying our complaints department and asking them to respond directly to you on why they are not following recommended guidelines and to copy in al Wimbledon Park councillors.
      If you decide to take your case to the Ombudsman please keep us in the information loop.
      You might also consider asking a public question at a future council meeting.Details of how to do this are in the Merton website.

  22. Peter Dickens August 9, 2017 1:15 pm

    The 20 metre rule does apply according to islington council ,but only if you are dropping off or picking someone up ,or loading or unloading which is absolutely crazy they issued me with a pcn for pulling around a vechicle that was blocking the centre lane making me go into a bus lane to get by ,they say I should have waited for said vechicle to move but how long am I expected to wait ? They said there is no set rule for this ! Who would be a motorist in london.

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