MORE than 22,800 tickets have been given out to drivers caught using Colchester town centre’s new buses-only lanes.

Essex County Council has revealed in the past year, it issued 11,733 tickets to drivers using North Hill and a further 11,134 to drivers turning right into Queen Street from the High Street.

The total means an average of 1,900 tickets a month are being handed out, earning Essex County Council as much as £680,000 depending on when drivers paid up and how many appealed successfully against fines.

When the car ban first came in, campaigners urged the council to cancel tickets and refund fines, claiming the ban and new road layout had been poorly advertised and badly signposted.

Chris Harvey collected more than 2,000 names on a protest petition in the space of a few days.

After hearing the tally for the year, he said: “I’m shocked by the number of tickets. The amount of revenue they’ve made is astronomical.

“It was such a big debate and there are now more signs, so I’m shocked people are still doing it.”

Drivers caught using the bus lanes are ordered to pay a £60 fine, reduced to £30, if paid within two weeks. However, if left unpaid for 28 days or more the fine increases to £90.

The bus lanes were first introduced in October 2013, but in January 2014 County Hall agreed to refund all fines up to that point, after accepting the car ban had been poorly publicised.

It cancelled about 30,000 tickets and refunded about £1million.

A year later and opponents of the ban are still calling for it to be scrapped.

Ian Goldsworthy, who runs Amigos restaurant, on North Hill, said: “I’ve yet to meet a member of the public who thinks the bus lanes are a good idea.

“I can’t honestly say I understand the logic of having them.

“I think having them 24 hours a day is ludicrous, but I don’t think we’ve got any chance of changing it. I don’t think county councillor Rodney Bass, who is responsible, ever defers to public opinion.”

Barbara Davis set up a Facebook group opposing the bus lanes. She said: “The bus lanes are a waste of time. I can’t see what the are actually doing.

They are not reducing the amount of traffic – there’s just more traffic on East Hill.”

Mr Bass, county councillor responsible for highways, said: “The bus lanes in Colchester High Street and on North Hill will form part of the route the park and ride buses will take when it opens in the spring.

“They are vital to our plans to ease congestion in the town.

“It has been made clear to motorists they will be fined if they use the bus lanes and we will continue to take enforcement action in the future.”