Million-dollar road trial mistakenly pings driver

James Tomlin was concerned someone was using altered plates that matched his own. Photo: Supplied...
James Tomlin was concerned someone was using altered plates that matched his own. Photo: Supplied / LDR
A Christchurch man got a big surprise when warned for using a bus lane in Mount Maunganui, despite being in Christchurch at the time.

James Tomlin received a warning letter from Tauranga City Council for using the notorious bus lane on Links Ave.

The bus lane has come under fire for resulting in $1.2 million in fines in just two weeks during a trial that closed off the east end of the street to all vehicles except authorised ones.

In the first two weeks of the trial 8500 warning letters were issued; in the next fortnight 8000 $150 fines were given out.

As of May 9, there have been 9540 infringements issued, totalling $1.43 million.

Tomlin told Local Democracy Reporting he received a warning letter a few days into the trial in early April.

"I received a warning from them [the council] about my vehicle infringing, and obviously it was at my place in Christchurch at the time," he said.

"I immediately knew it was an error or someone was using stolen plates or fake plates that matched my vehicle.

"It is possible to alter plates or to have plates made that look the same."

He was worried someone was using altered plates and getting tickets - or worse.

"It would be a serious concern if they were to do ram-raids or something like that.

"It did make me concerned that there's a vehicle - it could even be the same type of vehicle - driving around with potentially stolen or altered plates on it, due to getting that letter sent to me."

The Links Avenue bus lane is monitored by an automatic number plate recognition camera. Photo:...
The Links Avenue bus lane is monitored by an automatic number plate recognition camera. Photo: John Borren/Sun Media / LDR

Tomlin wanted to speak out about his experience in case other fines were sent by mistake.

"It does make you wonder how many more might have been an error."

Tomlin emailed Tauranga City Council questioning if someone was using fake number plates and it replied: "The Links Avenue bus lane is enforced by camera and unfortunately this can sometimes result in errors reading vehicle registrations".

"We have checked the CCTV and can see that this is not your vehicle and a digit has been transposed," the reply said.

Council regulation monitoring team leader Stuart Goodman said the bus lane is monitored by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) camera.

"To date, less than 1 percent of processed warning letters and infringement notices have included inaccuracies."

The system has various checks in place, some of which are manual, and a warranted parking officer must review the evidence before an infringement is issued, Goodman said.

"Unfortunately, in this instance, human error has resulted in the registration being entered incorrectly."

The four-month cul-de-sac trial on Links Ave, formed by a northbound and southbond bus lane, has been implemented after concerns were raised about the safety of children using the road to get to school.

Links Ave is a travel corridor for three schools: Mount Maunganui College, Omanu School and Mount Maunganui Intermediate, which is on the street.

The road is used by motorists to avoid congestion on neighbouring routes Oceanbeach Rd and Maunganui Rd, which had up to 7500 vehicles using it daily prior to the trial.

- By Alisha Evans
Local Democracy Reporter 

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