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Transport: Bus Stops

Volume 722: debated on Monday 22 November 2010


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what powers exist to ensure that vehicles other than buses do not park in bus stops.

My Lords, the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002—TSRGD—include powers to provide bus stop clearways, which restrict parking and loading where appropriate. Those traffic authorities granted civil parking enforcement have powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004 to enforce against contraventions. Elsewhere, this is a matter for the police.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Would he not agree that it is very regrettable that a number of local authorities do not seem to use their existing powers to make sure that the rules are enforced? A lot of transport consumer bodies have raised this issue because many disabled people, lots of older people and young parents with buggies find that they cannot get on to what are now generally accessible buses because there is a car parked in the way. Sometimes cyclists come up very quickly on the nearside and make them very scared. This is not working properly. Is there anything the Minister can do to make sure that local authorities use their enforcement powers?

My Lords, we encourage local authorities to use the powers available to them. A key point about bus stop clearways is that you do not need a traffic regulation order to set one up so they are easy for local authorities to implement.

Will the Minister help the House by telling it how many prosecutions have been brought by the police or local authorities for such bus stop contraventions? Could he hazard a guess about how many fewer there will be after the number of policemen has been cut?

My Lords, unfortunately I cannot give a figure for the number of penalty charge notices issued, and if I had thought to ask that question, I would probably have been told that they cannot separate general parking offences and bus stop offences.

My Lords, does my noble friend recognise that this is a particular problem for people with a sight handicap? It is very difficult for people, for instance, with a guide dog—I declare an interest as a former member of the council of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association—to get on a bus when there is a large gap between the pavement and the bus because of a vehicle parked in the bus stop? As my noble friend said, the authorities have the power to prosecute for illegal parking in these circumstances. Will they be encouraged to use it?

My Lords, my noble friend is right that we have spent a lot of money on building buses that provide wheelchair access. That is wasted if an inconsiderate and selfish motorist parks in a bus stop. On prosecutions, we will encourage local authorities to prosecute and use the powers they have available, but we will not micromanage them.

My Lords, picking up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, the problem of which I am most aware is that of cars parked illegally on pavements. Can the Government encourage the police to enforce more effectively the regulations that prohibit this? Essex Police has a very good scheme, I am told, that is making a difference. Perhaps the Government could encourage other forces to take a leaf out of Essex’s book.

My Lords, I am not aware of what the Essex police have done, but I am fully aware that parking on pavements, especially when it is unexpected and there are no traffic signs allowing for such parking, is particularly dangerous to people with impaired vision.

My Lords, it is all right for the Minister to say at the Dispatch Box that he will encourage local authorities and the police to be more active, but the Government have plans to reduce significantly the resources available to the police and to cut local authority budgets by 30 per cent. Will he also address the question of whether the Highway Code is entirely clear about the obligations of motorists with regard to parking at bus stops?

My Lords, my officials take great interest and care in drafting replies to all Parliamentary Questions. During their research, it was discovered that there is an error in rule 240 of the Highway Code: it does not list bus stop clearways as somewhere you must stop. However, at the next printing that error will be corrected.

My Lords, will the noble Lord consider the fact that the police do not generally prosecute and the chances of them doing so are slight? Will he further consider that local authorities not only have the power, but that they keep the money they collect in fines for their own purposes? Will he ensure that local authorities are written to in order to underline the fact that they have the power and the money to effectively police such places as bus stops and disabled parking spaces?

My Lords, the police get involved where a parked vehicle causes an obstruction or a safety problem and they can have the vehicle towed away. Local authorities keep the revenue raised from parking fines, but they have to be hypothecated for transport-related projects.

My Lords, moving marginally from bus stops, is my noble friend aware that there is a strong correlation between cars parked in disabled parking spaces outside the main entrances to supermarkets and drivers with a criminal record?

I am not sure whether the Minister has fully answered the questions from two of my noble friends about how he anticipates that enforcement activity will be enhanced in the context in which local authorities will be facing a substantial reduction in budgets and policing will also be stressed. Where will the extra enforcement activities come from?

My Lords, I am fully aware of the forthcoming difficulties, but we have given local authorities increased flexibility by removing a lot of the ring-fencing on funding streams.

My Lords, surely, parking offences pay for themselves with regard to parking wardens. Can this not be done by parking wardens?

My Lords, the fines for parking infringements are set to deter illegal parking and to enable local authorities to recover the cost of enforcement.