ALMOST 26,000 drivers have been told to pay fines for crossing Lendal Bridge since the controversial traffic trial began, it has today been revealed.
Latest figures produced by City of York Council show 20,455 motorists were issued with penalty charge notices - carrying a maximum £60 fine - for breaching the new bridge restrictions between September 23 and November 10.
It means 25,911 fine notices have now been sent out since CCTV enforcement of the trial - banning cars, vans, lorries and motorbikes from using the bridge between 10.30am and 5pm every day until the end of February - began.
If all fines were paid in full, this would total £1.55 million in penalties. However, the Labour-led council said its actual "net revenue" from the entire trial, based on current trends, is expected to be about £600,000, as about 90 per cent of drivers who pay a fine do so within 14 days so they are eligible for a £30 discount and others will successfully appeal.
Income from fines issued to foreign-licensed cars does not go to the council, while the authority said processing, set-up and monitoring costs were also taken into account. The £600,000 figure was provided by the council after it indicated earlier today that the estimated income from the trial would be higher.
Meanwhile, new traffic rules on Coppergate, which carry the same penalties for breaches as Lendal Bridge, have seen 3,401 fines issued between September 23 and November 3.
An update report on the overall impact of the trial, posted on the council's website today, said the bridge trial was "not causing significant increases in travel time" on Park&Ride routes.
It said September traffic levels on Foss Islands Road and Water End, at Clifton Bridge, had risen year-on-year, while the volume had fallen slightly on Leeman Road, Boroughbridge Road and Malton Road. However, it also said the number of cars using Foss Islands Road had decreased slightly following the first month of the trial, although Water End was busier.
Officials said traffic patterns were "still settling down", but they believed more drivers were obeying the Lendal Bridge restrictions and motorists were changing the time of day when they travel.
The week when the most Lendal Bridge fines - 4,138 - were issued was between October 28 and November 3, when schools were closed for half-term. A further 3,947 penalty charge notices related to the previous week, when half-term fell at schools in some other areas,
The council report said: "Out of the total number of penalty charge notices issued, some will be successful at appeal, which can take up to three weeks, so the actual number of viable penalty charge notices will actually be lower."
Darren Richardson, the council's director of city and environmental services, said the aim of the trial was not to generate revenue, but to cut traffic crossing Lendal Bridge and heading into the city-centre "as part of a long-term vision to create an even more attractive and thriving city-centre for everybody". He said any income to the council would be ring-fenced for investment in highways and transport schemes.
“The purpose of the trial and consultation is to find out how this scheme affects all traffic movements around the city, but also how we can learn from any issues whichmay arise along the way, so that we are in the best position to decide if this scheme could become a more longer-term viable option," he said.
However, Conservative leader Coun Ian Gillies said the figures for fines were "deeply worrying". He said: “They are getting worse, not better, as the months go on, demonstrating that the council still doesn't have its signage right, and the result is that the reputation of York as a tourist city is being tarnished."
He said there were "no significant changes" in Park&Ride travel times despite one of the trial's aims being to speed up bus journeys, and no information had been provided about whether bus usage had risen.
He said: "Water End, in particular, does not need much in the way of congestion to bring traffic there to a standstill, and looking at these statistics one has to begin to question what tangible benefits the closure of Lendal Bridge is actually bringing to our city."
Fellow Conservative councillor Chris Steward said the trial was causing "a lot of pain for very little gain", and while there were "negligible improvements" on bus times, he believed shoppers were heading elsewhere and other roads were suffering congestion problems.
Liberal Democrat leader Coun Keith Aspden said the figures showed the "continued failure" of the trial, saying: "So far, it has done nothing to improve bus reliability and has led to a significant increase of traffic on Clifton Bridge and Foss Islands Road.
"Meanwhile, city-centre footfall is down and businesses are suffering. The only winners seem to be the council who are raking in the money as thousands of residents and visitors are fined every week”.
Coun Andy D'Agorne, who leads the council's Green group, said: "The level of compliance is disappointing, but the impact on Clifton Bridge and Foss Islands Rd appears to be minimal.
"This is encouraging in terms of the potential to further reduce cross-city driving by those with alternative options available. I would like to see the council including air quality data in these reports."
Mr Richardson said the council had launched a new online journey planner at itravelyork.info to provide "tailored transport options" around York, while a map of the 65 signs indicating the bridge restrictions was at york.gov.uk/citycentreimprovements.
He said some sat nav companies' devices could not incorporate the restrictions because it was a temporary measure, but Google Maps and tablet-based sat nav apps and route-finders were able to take the bridge trial into account.