Council gets £16k in bus lane fines after M5 crash caused diversion

A council raked in £16,000 in bus lane fines after a fatal motorway crash that caused 11-mile tailbacks diverted drivers through a nearby town.
The horror crash on the M5 in Somerset on September 13 killed Rod Walsh, 54, Joanne Jennings, 45, and injured four others.
Drivers travelling on the southbound carriageway were left stranded for 11 hours, while other motorists were diverted onto the A38 through Taunton to avoid the gridlock.
But while they avoided traffic chaos, 581 drivers were hit with fines after accidentally driving in the bus lane, reaping £15,960 for the local council.
The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request, which shows Somerset County Council is set to cash in £18,344 if all of the drivers pay their fines.    
Only buses, emergency vehicles and bicycles are allowed to pass along the section of the road in Tautnon, which has no barriers but is monitored by cameras which record number plates.
The lane is designed to prevent cars from driving through a residential area and instead use the A38 relief road, which was gridlocked on the day of the fatal crash. 
The crash at 8.30am on September 13 happened when a lorry travelling southbound collided with a car queuing to exit the motorway at Junction 25.  
It had a knock-on effect for the six vehicles in front, killing a passenger of the first - Mr Walsh - and the driver of the second - Mrs Jennings.
Paying tribute to Mr Walsh, his family said in a statement at the time: 'We would like to express our sadness at losing a gentle fun loving family man who was a fabulous husband, father, son, son-in-law, brother, brother-in-law, uncle and friend to many who loved him dearly in return.'
Mrs Jenning's family said: 'Joanne was a loving mother, wife, sister, auntie and nanny.
'She was always filled with joy and happiness, laughing and smiling as she went about her day.
'She will be sadly missed by family and friends and has a place in many people's hearts.' 
The carriageway was shut in both directions between junction 24 for Bridgwater and junction 25 after the smash. 
Traffic was not diverted through the bus lane as part of the formal diversion following the collision.
Any income generated from bus gate fines, or other forms of traffic enforcement, must by law be reinvested in enforcement or traffic management within Somerset.
Somerset County Council has dismissed suggestions that extra signs are needed to prevent more people from being fined in the future.
A spokesman said: 'On the day of the M5 closure there was an increase in unauthorised vehicles using the Bathpool bus gate, but for context there were nearly 20,000 vehicles using the A38 that day and only 581 vehicles went through the bus gate.
'We would remind drivers to beware of relying on sat-nav systems and always pay attention to signs and road markings.
'Anyone who is unhappy about receiving a fine is able to appeal and any mitigating factors will be considered.
'Drivers can also have their appeal considered by an independent adjudicator at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal if they are still unhappy with our decision.'
Asked if the council was planning on waiving any of the fines in wake of the tragedy, a spokesman told MailOnline: 'Clearly this is a terrible tragedy and our condolences go to the families involved.
'The accident did cause considerable congestion on local roads, but traffic was not directed towards the bus gate, which is well sign-posted and not on the main A38.
'Anyone who is unhappy about a fine they have received is able to appeal and mitigating factors will be considered.
'Drivers can also have their appeal considered by an independent adjudicator at the Traffic Penalty Tribunal if they are still unhappy with our decision.
'We do not make any profit from bus gates – any surplus generated through fines is reinvested in traffic management which includes measures to improve road safety in Somerset.'
The bus lane road layout has raked in a total of £429,000 in fines since it was first opened in October 2017, the figures reveal.
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