COLCHESTER MP Sir Bob Russell has backed calls for town centre bus lanes to be better signposted.

The Lib Dem has written to Rodney Bass, county councillor responsible for highways, to improve signs and road markings.

This newspaper has highlighted hundreds of unsuspecting motorists have received fines for driving up North Hill or turning right into Queen Street from the High Street.

In his letter Sir Bob said: “The on/off traffic management proposals are leading to hundreds of otherwise law-abiding motorists being caught by surprise and receiving fines over confusion.

“In light of this, I write to request you make arrangements for more obvious signs to be erected and painted on the road surface and the fines imposed on unsuspecting motorists are waived.

“Why is it necessary to have 24- hour bus lanes when buses do not operate 24-hours?

“All this negative publicity is damaging to Colchester, and causing a considerable amount of annoyance.”

Changes to the traffic system, including a car ban in the High Street, were introduced in March, but were suspended within a month.

Bus lanes were reintroduced in November, but a number of drivers have complained about confusion with the ban only advertised by temporary signs.

Stephen Lawrence, 40, a heating engineer, from Old Heath, Colchester, has received eight fines this week for using the bus lanes in early December.

He said: “The signs are the issue. People are not aware the bus lanes are back in force.

“If I had received one or two tickets promptly I might think it was my fault for not looking, but I have driven up and down there since the beginning of September and I’ve only just started getting my tickets through.”

A county council spokesman said Mr Bass would be responding to Sir Bob’s letter in due course. The spokesman added: “The traffic regulation order restrictions were reintroduced as an experiment, the consultation period for which has recently finished.

“We are reviewing the responses to the consultation and assessing the need for any alterations, and any changes required will be made at the earliest possible opportunity.

“The number and location of traffic signs installed as part of the scheme complywith the standards required.

“We welcome feedback and will consider the introduction of additional signs as part of the review of feedback received.

“We do not wish to profit from any perceived confusion and want to help the public to comply with the restrictions.

“Recipients of fines are able to contest them.”

...and he wants 1 in 4 street lights back on at night

IN a separate letter to Mr Bass, MP Sir Bob Russell has called for one in every four street lights to be switched back on in the partnight lighting scheme.

Across the borough, 70 per cent of street lights are switched off between midnight and 5am to reduce County Hall’s energy bills.

Lights in high-crime areas, town centres and accident blackspots have been kept on.

Sir Bob wants to see one in four lamp posts being kept on to provide some light while longer-term solutions are found, such as action sensitive lights or dimmer controls.

He said: “This would meet the desire to reduce energy consumption while going some way to addressing the concerns of those who feel leaving our streets in darkness is dangerous.

“I can vouch for this from personal experience when, having been out with the police until 3am in the morning, I walked home firstly from the well-lit High Street and then ventured into Maidenburgh Street which was pitch black.”