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Taunton bus gate fines could 'put tourists off coming to Somerset'
6:30am Thursday 24th October 2013 in News
A TOURIST clocked driving along a bus-only street five times in two days is advising visitors to boycott Somerset.
A hotel boss says unsuspecting guests regularly complain of being caught out and unless something is done local businesses will suffer.
Somerset County Council insists the signs are clear and drivers should not rely on sat navs and they will continue to fine anyone breaking the rules.
Australian Bernie Knight said he was one of two motorists each fined five times in 48 hours for driving through Taunton’s Deane Gate Avenue bus gate.
“This is simply ripping off unsuspecting visitors who are using their in-car GPS,” said Mr Knight.
“The GPS directs a motorist into Ilminster Road.
“The bus lane signs face the M5 roundabout and aren’t visible from the road as you leave the neighbouring motels.
“To receive five traffic violations in 48 hours is a council rip-off. I think highway robbery is alive in Somerset.”
County Hall ignored Mr Knight’s objections, although his hire car company has since paid the fines.
He is now posting comments about the “cash grab” on Trip Advisor and other websites in Britain and Australia.
“This may affect the Taunton visitor numbers, but it must be stopped – it’s not an isolated incident,” added Mr Knight.
“The council are very aware and just let it happen.
“My message is simple in my tourist articles in Australia – ‘Stay the hell out of Somerset’.”
Robert Holmes, general manager at the Holiday Inn Express Taunton, where Mr Knight stayed, said he gets around one guest a week complaining about being fined.
He added: “Sat navs are directing people down the bus lane.
“We know it’s there, but it’s not well signposted and it’s not overly clear that it’s not a through road.
“People are going down there day in, day out.
“Taunton hasn’t got a lot of tourist attractions. We don’t need this bad publicity on top of that.
“It’s very damaging for business.”
A total of 731 motorists were caught driving through the bus gate in a month after the county switched on the cameras in September last year. They were fined £60 each, halved if they paid promptly.
A spokesman for the authority said: “The signs are clear that drivers shouldn’t use the bus gates.
“There’s always a danger in relying on sat navs and ignoring road signs.
“We urge everyone, residents and visitors alike, to abide by the rules or otherwise risk a fine.”
Comments on Holiday Inn Express Trip Advisor.
*MargT: “I received in the post last Friday 3 X bus lane enforcement charges totalling £90 if I pay in 28 days rising to £270 if I can’t manage to pay ion 28 days. As this was a quiet Sunday afternoon, couldn’t actually see any buses I feel as though I’ve been scammed by Somerset council. When you’re in a strange town, trying to find your way around and also under some stress as we were there for a funeral is bad enough, not very welcoming for holidaymakers buy hey ho as long as the council are making money from motorists.”
*mApples069: “My family came down in 3 cars for a funeral followed the sat nav back from the crematorium all 3 of us have just received fines for using a bus lane will never set foot in somerset again.”
*Mariam451: “We got a car fine from the council for apparently using a bus lane outside the hotel which is not clearly signed.”
*Audrey r, chester: “We arrive off the M5 and found the roundabout system somewhat confusing and turned by mistake into the bus lane unknowingly. We turned around and left Ilminster Road after 2 minutes. We were on camera. We have now a hefty fine of £60 for 2 minutes, one for entering and another fine when we turned around.”
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