A scheme to tackle inconsiderate drivers who break the law by blocking Cambridge bus lanes, stopping emergency services and endangering cyclists was backed by councillors.

Members of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee have approved the Traffic Regulation Order that will allow enforcement of the bus lanes in Cambridge.

Bus lanes are to be used by authorised vehicles only, including buses, taxis, emergency services and cyclists. Keeping them clear is essential to reducing congestion, helping the emergency services and protecting cyclists.

A survey of just three bus lanes in Cambridge discovered they were being misused up to 150 times and hour in peak periods - equating to at least 600,000 a year.

Cambridgeshire County Council agreed proposals in November last year to enforce the bus lanes and reduce the amount of drivers who illegally use them. This is part of a drive to encourage people to use public transport and cycling to help reduce congestion and give better choice.

Cambridgeshire sees around 19 million bus trips a year "“ the majority of these trips are in and around Cambridge. Without the free flow of public transport and cycling then it is clear the City would become gridlocked with the weight of traffic in the narrow historic streets.

Like other authorities across the country, the Council will use cameras to enforce contravention of bus lanes. Any money raised by the fines would be used to pay for the scheme to operate or be invested in public transport or highway improvements.

Any potential infringement of a bus lane by a driver would also be looked at by an officer to see if there may have been good reason and fines issued only if there isn't. The first two weeks of operation will also see warning notices sent to drivers who infringe bus lanes to make sure everyone has a fair chance to see that enforcement is being carried out.

Evidence collected in Cambridgeshire has demonstrated significant levels of contravention of certain bus lanes. Enforcement powers have been taken up by 28 other authorities in the country. A Transport for London Study has shown that routine enforcement of bus lanes can result in a 15% reduction in delays to buses as a result of an 85% improvement in compliance levels.

Cambridgeshire County Council has been awarded funding by the Department for Transport, through the Better Bus Area Fund, to implement the proposed enforcement.

New sign and lineage has been installed to allow the better enforcement of bus lanes and make it easier for drivers to understand which lane they should be in. This follows a review of signage and lines on bus lanes and will include simplifying and making the lanes clearer in Newmarket Road.

The final works will now be carried out so that the scheme can start later in the year.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Roger Hickford, Chairman of the Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee, said: "Blocking bus lanes is inconsiderate and annoying for the vast majority of law abiding drivers who use the road. But more importantly it is breaking the law, increases congestion and puts lives at risk. Having free-flowing public transport links and safer places for cyclists to ride reduces congestion and therefore boosts the economy and creates more road space for people who have to take their cars. The lanes are also used by emergency services and therefore it is vital they are kept clear in a city like Cambridge where the historic streets are narrow. The Committee also approved the Traffic Regulation Orders and the scheme because of the common sense way it will be applied and the checks and balances in place so that footage is scrutinised before any ticket is given."

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