SOMERSET County Council earned nearly £16,000 from fining drivers in a single day following a crash on the M5.

Two people died and four others were injured in a multi-vehicle crash between Junction 24 (Bridgwater) and Junction 25 (Taunton) on September 13, 2018.

Hundreds of motorists opted to use the A38 to avoid queues up to 11 miles long, passing near the recently-installed bus gate on the eastern edge of Taunton.

A freedom of information request has revealed that more than 550 drivers were caught using the bus gate during the delays – netting the county council thousands of pounds in fines.

Only buses, emergency vehicles and bicycles are allowed to pass along the section of road in Bathpool and Monkton Heathfield, which is monitored by cameras which recognise number plates.

Drivers of other vehicles are liable for a penalty charge. Since the gate became operational in October 2017, more than £429,000 of penalty charges have been generated.

On September 13, 2018, a total of 581 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued to drivers who were caught on camera going through the bus gate.

Traffic was not specifically diverted through the bus gate as part of any formal diversion during the M5 delays.

As of Tuesday (November 6), 87 per cent of drivers who received a PCN have paid up – raising the council a total of £15,960.

Assuming that all drivers paid the same amount, and that every PCN will be settled, the council can eventually expect to earn a total of £18,344 from the day’s fines.

Any income generated from bus gate fines, or other forms of traffic enforcement, must by law be reinvested in enforcement or traffic management within Somerset.

The council has dismissed suggestions that extra signage is needed to prevent more people from being fined in the future.

A spokesman said: “On the day of the M5 closure there was an increase in unauthorised vehicles using the Bathpool bus gate, but for context there were nearly 20,000 vehicles using the A38 that day and only 581 vehicles went through the bus gate.

“We would remind drivers to beware of relying on sat-nav systems and always pay attention to signs and road markings.

“Anyone who is unhappy about receiving a fine is able to appeal and any mitigating factors will be considered.

“Drivers can also have their appeal considered by an independent adjudicator at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal if they are still unhappy with our decision.”