6th Dec, 2016

Just 400 out of 13,000 drivers refunded in Coventry council bus gate fiasco

Coventry Editorial 29th Sep, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

COVENTRY City Council has refunded just three per cent of drivers who were wrongly fined for using city bus gates.

More than 13,000 drivers were caught driving through the bus gates – designated sections of road for buses and taxis only at Park Road, Greyfriars Green and Gosford Street – between between December 10, 2015 and April 21, 2016 and fined nearly £400,000 collectively by Coventry City Council.

But after it emerged earlier this year that the bus gates were wrongly sign-posted, the council agreed to refund each affected driver their £30 penalty fee (or higher £60 fee if it was not paid within 14 days).

However, to date the council has reimbursed just 400 of the 13,000 affected drivers – returning roughly £11,700 of the £398,460 owed to motorists.

Motorists who had been fined for using any of the three bus gates were told they could claim their refund by emailing or writing to the council’s parking enforcement team.

However, the Observer has learnt that other councils, who also had to issue refunds for unlawful bus gate or bus lane fines, had written individually to every affected motorist offering them their refunds.

York Council and Bath Council wrote to the 13,000 and 9,000 drivers, respectively, who they had wrongly fined – explaining the situation and advising them of their right to apply for a refund.

The decision was made by councillors who felt many motorists would miss out on their rightful reimbursements, despite publicity and coverage of the issue in the local press – simply sending the refund notices to the same address as they had already sent the motorists’ fines to.

In reponse to the Observer’s questions about what Coventry council was doing to ensure every affected motorist received their refund, a council spokesperson said: “We won’t be writing to everyone who received a penalty notice following an admin error by the Department for Transport.

“There has been lots of coverage in the local media about the bus gate in Quinton Road / Park Road and we have been clear that people can to apply to us in writing for a refund if they received a ticket between December 10, 2015 and April 21, 2016.

“Any penalty notices that were issued outside these dates are subject to the normal appeals process.”

Council figures, released earlier this year, revealed 1,780 drivers were caught driving through the Park Road bus gate at the interchange with Quinton Road; 9,099 issued penalty charge notices (PCNs) for driving down Warwick Road near Greyfriars Green; and 2,403 motorists caught at the Gosford Street bus gate.

The bus gate signs were initially installed in August 2014, and were re-authorised by the DfT on December 10 last year.

But the Department of Transport (DfT) made a technical error and wrongly de-authorised the signs – meaning any motorist who had been fined for driving through a bus gate between December 10, 2015 and April 21, 2016 had been wrongly charged and is due a refund.