MORE than 25,000 'bus lane fines' have been issued to drivers in the first 12 months since the completion of the Pennine Reach scheme.

The Lancashire Telegraph can reveal town hall bosses generated an income of £623,730 since it introduced its controversial sanctioning system along the £40million bus route in October 2016.

Motorists who have driven in the bus lanes have received penalty notices of £60 reduced to £30 if paid within 21 days.

Since October 1, 2016, only buses, Hackney Cabs and cyclists have been allowed to use the specially designated lanes around the borough.

In the 12 months following the penalty introduction, the council has issued 25,496 tickets.

Of those 3,495 were successfully appealed by the recipient and 61 were duplicates.

Blackburn with Darwen Council regeneration boss Cllr Phil Riley said the fines were are entirely the fault of the motorist.

Cllr Riley said: "As everyone would expect, the number of tickets being issued for driving in a bus lane has fallen as motorists become used to the new road layouts.

"Bus lanes were introduced as part of the investment to improve the bus system between Darwen, Blackburn and Accrington and recent figures issued by Transdev show that passenger numbers on these routes are increasing and that’s good news.

"The bus lanes are clearly marked and, if motorists stay out of them, no one will be fined.

"We have a duty to make sure traffic in the borough flows. Any of the money which is then collected has to be reinvested in roads and highways."

Politicians and business leaders have criticised the council for using the bus lanes as a 'money making exercise' and told them to make the signs easier to understand.

Blackburn and District Chamber of Trade president, Tony Duckworth, branded the figures 'appalling' and encouraged the council to re-think its signage.

Mr Duckworth said: "I am appalled by the statistics.

"It is an indication of how poorly they are understood by drivers and how poorly the council has signposted the bus lanes.

"It is a discouragement for visitors to come and shop in our town when their going home present is a ticket from the borough council."

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: "These figures are very high. You would expect the figures for the first year to be quite significant and hopefully will learn from it.

"The council needs to analyse the figures and make it clearer for people to see exactly when they are entering a bus lane. It shouldn't be about making money. It should be about make sure traffic flows properly."

Cllr David Foster, who represents the Whitehall ward on Blackburn with Darwen Council, said he believes the ticket numbers are so high because of driver frustration at empty bus lanes.

He said: "The complaints I have had from constituents are more about questioning how effective the Pennine Reach scheme has been.

"Have the bus lanes actually improved? One of the questions I asked Cllr Riley was if we would be doing a survey on how effective the scheme had been once it was completed.

"We spent millions of pounds on it in order to improve public transport and I am not sure it has done what it said it would do."

Michael Read, who was given a fine for straying into a bus lane earlier this year, said: "The fact that 4,899 fines were issued in the first month, and dropped dramatically afterwards, confirms that, like me, many drivers were caught out.

"I do not believe that anyone drives in a bus lane intentionally.

"I should add that over the last year we have noticed not only bad or non-existent signage, but also a proliferation of speed cameras.

"It seems to me that many councils do not understand that this sort of over-regulation increases the likelihood of accidents.

"When drivers should be concentrating on the road ahead, looking out for hazards, they are distracted by over-regulation.

"The standard of driving is falling, and councils would be better employed conducting campaigns to encourage drivers to obey the Highway Code."