Emotions ran high as angry motorists penalised in Birmingham’s controversial bus lanes scheme protested their innocence at a tribunal.
Around 20 cases were heard at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal which aims to establish whether adequate signage has been used to warn drivers of restricted routes.
More than 80,000 fines of up to £60 each have been issued since the scheme was launched last September to deter drivers from using key routes in the city centre.
The vast majority of unsuspecting drivers were caught out by cameras erected in Colmore Circus Queensway and Priory Queensway.
Father-of-three Younis Mohammed was hit with ten tickets over a ten-day period as he visited his critically ill son at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
The 45-year-old taxi driver from Handsworth Wood had one of his fines scrapped, but is appealing the other nine.
“They waited ten days before they sent through the first one,” he said.
“If they had told me straight away I would not have used that route again. After the first one, I was getting a new fine come through every day. I had no idea it was only for buses.”
Justine Roden, from Alvechurch, Worcestershire, was taking her eight-year-old daughter to the Burns Unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital when she incurred a penalty.
“I know the parking is horrendous around there so I was just trying to find a parking space nearby,” the 41-year-old VAT consultant said.
“I was not aware I had committed any sort of offence. There were lots of cones in the road that were screening off where it said ‘bus lanes’ in the road markings.
“I think it’s a money spinning trap from the council.”
Disabled Jason Murtagh, 46, from Castle Bromwich, was also visiting BCH, to see his poorly son, when he accrued five fines – two of which have now been rescinded.
He said: “I’m a disabled badge holder and was eligible to park in and use certain city centre streets.
“I had no idea the bus lane signs were there and that I couldn’t use the roads. It’s a trap. The last thing I needed when visiting my son in hospital is for these fines to be dropped through the door.
“I can’t work because of my illness so something like this has a massive impact on our finances.
“Life’s a struggle as it is without having these fines as well.”
Reverend Robert Ash, from Tamworth, was caught out as he visited the city to undertake civic duties.
The 69-year-old said: “The fact that new signs have been put up just shows the inadequacy of the signs that were there before.
“The signs were inadequate, in fact they were dangerous because it made some people drive on the wrong side of the road into oncoming traffic.”
Ben Cheney, 70, from Sutton Coldfield, has become somewhat of a mouthpiece for the fined driver’s having set up a campaign group on Facebook.
He received a round of applause from fellow appellants when he gave evidence contesting the fine he received last September.
“A lot of people just don’t see the signs until it’s too late and then they are trapped,” he said.
A team of lawyers, acting for Birmingham City Council, were present at the hearing, but there was no sign of the city’s transport chief, Councillor Tahir Ali.
Tribunal adjudicators Stephen Knapp and Joanna Richards were due to hear a handful more cases on Thursday, February 13, before setting off on a site visit of the bus lanes.
They will make a ruling on the scheme within the next 14 days.