Essex County Council 'making money' from Chelmsford drivers
A council that earned more than £1.5m from people caught driving in a bus lane has been accused of running a money-making scheme.
Essex County Council confirmed that in 18 months to December it received £1,525,468 in penalties from motorists using the bus lane in Chelmsford.
Enforcement cameras were turned on in Duke Street in August 2017 and 54,242 drivers have had to pay up since then.
The council said the measure had enabled traffic to run more smoothly.
But Glenn Lushington, who successfully challenged his penalty, said: "The council is clearly doing this as a way of making money.
"I used to go through that bridge every day when I was younger and there was never, ever, an issue.
"They have just used the excuse of safety to justify this. It is so frustrating."
He said when he tried to appeal against the penalty online he was not able to complete the process.
Despite this, Mr Lushington said he received a letter the following day saying his appeal had been rejected.
"I don't believe they even looked at my appeal before rejecting it," said Mr Lushington.
In a statement, the council said it had been illegal since 2011 to drive through the bus gate at Duke Street, which provides access to the bus and railway stations.
Before resorting to enforcement cameras in 2017, the council said it had improved signage at junctions leading to the gate.
"The number of people illegally using the bus gate reduced to less than a quarter of the number before we began to issue penalty charge notices," the authority said.
Money raised by the charges is reinvested in public transport and roads across Essex, the council said.
The penalty for contravening a defined bus lane is £60, reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.