Ballygally man’s frustration over ‘farcical’ bus lane penalty charges

Lisa and Liam Murray pictured with Star Car Hire's VM Beetle on their wedding day in Belfast.  INLT 34-695-CON
Lisa and Liam Murray pictured with Star Car Hire's VM Beetle on their wedding day in Belfast. INLT 34-695-CON

A Ballygally man has blasted TransportNI after his wedding car hire company was hit with three separate fines for driving in a bus lane.

Mike Barr is the owner of Star Car Hire, a local firm which gives people the chance to make their wedding day that little bit more memorable by pulling up to the service in iconic vehicles such as the A-Team van or the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard.

On July 4, a driver for the firm was transporting a bride and groom to Belfast’s Europa Hotel in a VW Beetle, when they crossed into a bus lane for about 50 yards before turning in to the entrance of the complex.

Weeks later, Star Car Hire was issued with three separate £45 penalty notices after one of the vehicles was caught breaching new legislation for travelling an “unnecessarily long distance” along the bus lane.

The three offences all took place within an hour and a half.

But Mike has defended his drivers and claimed they had no other option but to use the lane.

He told the Times: “TransportNI say drivers wanting to access the front of the Europa have to use the outside lane and then cut across the bus lane a 90 degree angle. That is not a safe manouevre, and we have a duty of care to our customers. The last thing you want is for an accident to happen on their wedding day.

“Not only that, but if you stop in the middle of the road waiting for an opportunity to cross over the bus lane, you will cause congestion.

“The whole thing is farcical, and I strongly feel there should be a zone of about five cars lengths where drivers can pull into the bus lane before you arrive at the Europa. The situation needs reviewed urgently.”

Mike has contested the fines, but TransportNI have said there are no grounds for cancellation.

A spokesman for TransportNI said: “Drivers wishing to access properties or facilities adjacent to a bus lane are required to remain within the normal driving lane until they reach their intended destination and then cross the bus lane as near to a right angle as possible when safe to do so.

“ In this particular case, the drivers themselves state that they were in the bus lane for approximately ‘50 yards’ before the required turn.

“TransportNI video evidence led to the correctly issued Penalty Charge Notices.”