Author Topic: Surrey driver wins against council and warns more drivers may be due a refund  (Read 187 times)

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Offline The Bald Eagle

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Surrey driver wins against council over 'ludicrous' fine and warns more drivers may be due refund

Tim, an ex-police officer said what he did was the only safe option to avoid a 'dangerous' three-point turn

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter
08:23, 23 JUN 2024



Tim Cruddas, 59, said turning around in the middle of the busy four-way junction would not have been safe

An ex-police officer from Surrey has raised concerns about 'chaotic' roadworks that saw him wrongly fined £130 for driving in a bus lane.

Tim Cruddas, 59, from Esher, believes many other drivers could also have been fined unfairly by Kingston Council, after a Freedom of Information request revealed nearly 3,000 motorists were penalised for the same offence during the works last year.

Mr Cruddas was visiting Kingston in a car driven by his wife in October when they approached roadworks while travelling eastbound along Eden Street at its junctions with Union Street and St James' Road.

There is a permanent ban on turning left into Union Street, while St James' Road was closed to right-turning traffic from September 4 to November 27 due to the works. This meant, Mr Cruddas said, they drove into the bus lane as this was the only safe option to avoid a 'dangerous' three-point turn in the middle of the busy four-way junction, before turning around at the next available opportunity.


The junction of Eden Street with Union Street and St James' Road in Kingston

Mr Cruddas, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the council did not properly address the safety grounds of his appeal of the £130 fine when rejecting it twice, before it was finally overturned by an independent adjudicator in March. He said it was satisfying to win but that he had to take the time and trouble appealing the fine, and raised concerns other drivers have faced a similar situation.

The council at first argued that there were sufficient signs informing drivers of the works and that he should have found another route, and contested it at the tribunal. The adjudicator ruled Mr Cruddas did not break the rules as the Traffic Order 2014 includes an exemption for vehicles using a bus lane 'to avoid an accident'.

The adjudicator took into account that Mr Cruddas held advanced driver certification while he was a police officer. He told the LDRS: "I don't make any traffic manoeuvres that I think are unsafe, that's part of the training, and if I came across the same situation again tomorrow, I'd do the same thing because I'm not about to stop suddenly or... do three-point turns."

"I had a cyclist behind me, I had cars coming towards me, there were a couple of cars and a motorbike behind me, so Kingston's suggestion that I should have found another route is ludicrous because you can't back up down a busy road."

Mr Cruddas said the roadworks caused 'chaos' as many drivers did 'dangerous' three-point turns when faced with the temporary traffic restrictions. A video, he took on the day he was fined, shows three cars making three-point turns in the middle of the junction in just 44 seconds.

On top of this, Mr Cruddas believes many drivers were unfairly penalised for choosing the safer option of continuing into the bus lane to avoid an accident. The council responded to a Freedom of Information request by Mr Cruddas in March which revealed it issued 2,936 fines while St James' Road was closed - 1,384 of these were challenged and 114 challenges were successful. He raised concerns the authority rejected many of the appeals for the same reasons they gave to him, which were only overturned as he took it to tribunal.

The maximum fine for the offence is £130 and it can be halved to £65 if paid in 14 days. This means, if 2,822 fines were successfully processed, the authority could have generated between £183,430 and £366,860.

Mr Cruddas called on the council to have 'more joined-up thinking' as he argued it should have identified the issue and tackled it, for example by closing St James' Road further along, rather than just processing the fines.

He said: "For 84 days [the restrictions were] in place. I can't believe they didn't realise it was a real problem and they could have closed the road at the beginning of Eden Street, where it comes off the high street, they could have just put buses only, because it was in fact only buses that were allowed to go that way because there was no left turn and no right turn... and then people would have turned around before they got fed into Eden Street."

Regarding his concerns, he added: "It's about the bureaucratic failure to make a common sense decision and the fact that they have made a huge amount of money by just ignoring the challenges rather than saying actually lots of people have done this, maybe their traffic control wasn't good enough."

A Kingston Council spokesperson said: "Penalty charge notices are used to enforce traffic regulations and support our responsibility in keeping Kingston's roads safe. When diversions for roadworks are required drivers are advised where they should seek an alternative route, and restrictions such as bus lanes will remain in place unless they have clearly been suspended."

"On the occasions we have needed to close St James' Road, large scale signage of the diversion route down Kingston Hall Road at the junction with Kingston High Street has been in place. The council does not comment on individual cases appealed to the parking adjudicator. It is important to note that any ruling made does not set a precedent and parking adjudicators are free to make their own conclusion on any similar appeal."

https://www.getsurrey.co.uk/news/surrey-news/surrey-driver-wins-against-council-29380491
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