Essex County Council raked in £1.7million in bus lane fines in just one year.

A freedom of information request has also revealed the three roads which raised the most money through fines.

It is illegal for regular motorists to drive in a bus lane and anyone caught breaking the law is immediately issued with a £95 fixed-penalty notice.

This can be reduced to £45 if paid within two weeks.

Data for 2019 shows County Hall raked in £1,769,144 in bus lane fines – a drop from £2.5m the year before.

A total of 70,772 motorists were caught using bus lanes throughout 2019.

Duke Street in Chelmsford raked in the most cash during the year, with £540,635 paid out by motorists caught using the bus lane.

A further £314,884 was raised courtesy of the two cameras at Hythe Station in Colchester.

And North Hill in Colchester brought in the third highest amount, with £160,912.

The freedom of information request shows there were just 156 appeals sent to tribunal throughout 2019.

Speaking last year, Essex County Council’s Highways boss, Kevin Bentley, said bus gates were about “compliance rather than income”.

Echo: Kevin BentleyKevin Bentley

He said: “Success for the council would be to issue no fines at all, because then people were not contravening the restrictions but instead being more thoughtful about their journeys and the routes they take.

“Much work has been done to increase signage at all junctions leading to bus gates in Essex and its possible this work is having an effect, bringing down the amount of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued at bus gates in Colchester.”

Mr Bentley said bus gates were necessary to improve the journey time and reliability of buses and were a key part of the council’s push to get cars off the road and improve air quality in Essex.

He said: “Bus gates also benefit cyclists, as cyclists are able to use bus gates, opening up traffic free cycle routes which encourage people to use their bicycles, which improves public health and air quality.

“These aims of the council to improve air quality and public health by encouraging active travel are reflected in the national picture, with the Prime Minister recently announcing £2bn of funding for active travel to improve public health.”

Cash received from bus gate fines is ring-fenced for public transport and road improvements.