MOTORISTS caught in one of Southend’s diversions were stunned to find themselves pulled over by police and fined after following signs which led them into a bus lane just 40 metres long.

On Tuesday, drivers diverted because of seafront roadworks were caught out as they followed road signs leading them from Chancellor Road into Church Road, behind the Royals shopping centre.

Because bus lane signs in the area had not been covered up, police enforced the restriction and issued 15 people with £30 fines.

Ben Rudd, 22, of Beresford Road, Southend, and his girlfriend Ellen Jamieson, 18, were stopped by officers in Church Road as Ellen drove Ben to work.

Ben, who works in telemarketing, said: “We were pulled up and the officer said it had been a bus lane for a year and they were clamping down on it.

“Ellen was very upset at the thought she might have broken the law.”

Ben said the bus lane signs were poorly positioned and easy to miss. But the next day when he went past, the signs had been covered up with black bags.

Wendy Millson, 47, of Rochford Road, Southend, was left waiting to be picked up from her job at Marks & Spencer after her boyfriend was pulled over as he waited at traffic lights in Church Road.

She said: “I was quite annoyed because I have used that road every day for four years with no problems. I was stunned he got a ticket.”

Following the apparent mix-up, motorists hit with the fines have been told their tickets will be cancelled or refunded if they have already paid.

Adam Pipe, casualty reduction manager for Essex Police, said: “It would appear that on this occasion the particular sign in question should have been subject to a temporary suspension,which would have included the signs being covered.”

Southend Council’s strategic highways and traffic manager, Zulfiqar Ali, apologised to the motorists who had received penalty charge notices, blaming a breakdown in communication, which meant the bus lane restriction signs weren’t covered.

He said: “The signs were covered on Wednesday afternoon as soon as we were alerted to the situation.”